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World Cup One To Watch: Nigeria’s 22-year-old striker Kelechi Iheanacho

Kelechi Iheanacho
Photo: Getty Images

Leicester City

World Cup One To Watch: Nigeria’s 22-year-old striker Kelechi Iheanacho

The Nigeria international will be a player to keep an eye out for in Russia.

Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho will be one of the more familiar names to Premier League fans at this month’s 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The 22-year-old, who is set to represent Gernot Rohr’s Nigerian National Team in Russia, will be hoping to build on a strong finish to the season at club level.

While more experienced players such as Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel will be hugely important for Nigeria, the Foxes striker has the tools to make the difference.

To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.

Who is he?

A clinical goalscorer in Manchester City’s academy set-up, a series of eye-catching displays in the Etihad outfit’s 2015/16 pre-season saw the young striker called on for first-team duties for the first time in August 2015

His goal return in his maiden Premier League season at Manchester City – eight goals in 753 minutes  – was absolutely phenomenal. However, he was deemed surplus to requirements after the arrival of Pep Guardiola.

His big money summer move to Leicester City could have been an ideal fit, but he has ultimately suffered from Jamie Vardy’s continued scoring form at King Power Stadium, restricting him to fleeting cameos.

In his debut season for the Foxes, Iheanacho netted just three times in 21 outings. The summer World Cup, therefore, could provide a genuine career crossroad for the 22-year-old talent.

What is his international experience/record?

Iheanacho emerged at the Under-17 World Cup in 2014, where his displays earned him the FIFA Golden Ball award and saw his country crowned world champions – scoring six times and grabbing seven assists in the process.

At senior international level, Iheanacho made his Nigeria debut in 2015 and, despite his young age, has firmly established himself as a key man for his country. In 18 appearances for Rohr’s side, he has scored eight times.


Why will he be a breakout World Cup star?

Kelechi Iheanacho will be fired up and looking forward to the 2018 World Cup in Russia with great expectations, after playing his part throughout qualification.

The former Manchester City forward has a clinical eye for goal and if he is presented with even the slimmest of opportunities to hit the back of the next this summer, he will do so. For that, he could be instrumental.

His direct running upfront will see him cause trouble on the counter, which may be the Super Eagles’ best hope of escaping a group containing Argentina, Iceland and Croatia.

Despite scoring just three times for the Foxes, Iheanacho showed improved form towards the end of the campaign and he will be looking to take this positivity to Russia ahead of his World Cup debut.

Following up his great display against Arsenal, which saw him named in the Premier League Team of the Week, the 22-year-old was on target for the in a season-concluding defeat to Tottenham.

What is his future after the World Cup?

After a somewhat underwhelming start to life at the King Power Stadium, suitors for Iheanacho are unlikely to take the shape of the Premier League elite.

Having signed for the Foxes for a fee understood by BBC Sport to be £25 million, another club will not improve on that price in the form of a bid – and his current side would be unlikely to let him leave for any less.

The summer’s competition in Russia could be the perfect platform for Iheanacho to ignite his club career, which will see Leicester fans watching his performances with intent.

To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.

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