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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.

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Kelechi Iheanacho
Photo: Getty Images

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.

Chris is the founder of The Boot Room. He is a Swindon Town supporter, having lived in Wiltshire for most of his years. His work has also featured on Squawka, Bleacher Report and Eurosport.

Leicester City

Three reasons Danny Ward’s Leicester City move makes perfect sense

The Welshman looks set to move to the King Power.

Max Cohen

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Danny Ward
Photo: Getty Images

On Thursday, Sky Sports reported that Leicester City had agreed a £10 million fee for Liverpool goalkeeper Danny Ward.

The transfer makes sense for both parties, after Liverpool added goalkeeping talent that would have restricted Ward’s opportunities even more.

Here are three reasons why the switch is a smart one for the Welshman.

Alisson’s arrival extinguished Ward’s Liverpool hopes

Liverpool completed the signing of Roma goalkeeper Alisson after a prolonged transfer saga, which pushed Ward even further down the pecking order at Anfield.

Since joining in 2012, the Welsh international has made a grand total of three first team appearances for the Reds. The lack of minutes meant it was time for Ward to move on, and the addition of one of the best goalkeepers in the world confirmed that decision.

(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

Ward will enjoy increased playing time

In Percy’s tweet announcing the deal between the two clubs, he claimed Ward was being brought in to compete with Kasper Schmeichel, not to be a replacement.

But it is hard to ignore reports from Sky Sports that Chelsea are targeting the Danish goalkeeper, who might be tempted to move to Stamford Bridge as a replacement for the outgoing Thibaut Courtois.

Nevertheless, if Schmeichel stays Ward would still have the opportunity to play consistent football in cup competitions, which is much more than he enjoyed at Anfield.

The Welsh number one spot could soon be his

With a smart move to the King Power Stadium, Ward could possibly claim the Leicester number one role. And with positive performances, he could add to his four Wales caps and make a case to become the Welsh number one.

At only 25 years of age, he has plenty of time to ignite his international career, and at the perfect time due to the expanded Euro and World Cup fields.

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Chelsea

Three goalkeepers Leicester should target if Kasper Schmeichel leaves

Chelsea are keen to sign Kasper Schmeichel, which would leave Leicester in need of a replacement.

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Kasper Schmeichel
Photo: Getty Images

Leicester City could be in need of rejuvenation between the stick if Chelsea get their way, as the Blues are eyeing Kasper Schmeichel.

Sky Sports state the Denmark international is a target for new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri amidst continued speculation that Thibaut Courtois is off to Real Madrid – a transfer that now seems increasingly likely to go ahead.

After featuring for his nation at the World Cup, speculation suggesting 31-year-old Schmeichel will seek a new challenge for the 2018/19 season has been growing, with Sky Sports previously reporting the Premier League winner is also a target for Roma.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

If Schmeichel is to leave, then Leicester boss Claude Puel must invest funds on a new goalkeeper in the market and these three options would be tremendous signings.

“Those Champions league nights are special. There is something about the night games, going away to different cities, it makes it unique.”

Schmeichel’s comments in 2017 may hint at a move for European football.

Jack Butland

England international Jack Butland may not have been first-choice for Gareth Southgate during the club’s tremendous run to the World Cup semi-finals but a major transfer could be on the cards before the window shuts.

Stoke City‘s relegation means that Butland will find it difficult to fight for a spot in the national side next season if he remains in the second-tier and Leicester would be the ideal surroundings for the 25-year-old, though a stern fight may emerge for his services.

The Sun reported Chelsea’s interest earlier this month but the Blues pursuit of Schmeichel suggests that their targets have changed, while the Mirror has thrown doubt on Liverpool‘s reported interest as Jurgan Klopp is content with the goalkeeping options he has at Anfield.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

David Ospina

Boasting vast experience at international level, after starring for Colombia in the previous two World Cups, David Ospina also possesses Premier League and European experience – all of which would encourage Leicester to make a move.

Arsenal are ready to approve a departure following their capture of Germany international Bernd Leno and the Mirror states that the Gunners will accept a fee of just £6 million for the 29-year-old due to the fact he has entered the final 12 months of his contract.

Boca Juniors are also in the hunt for Ospina’s services but the player’s agent told El Crack Deportivo that a move to South America would be difficult to materialise and his preference is to remain in European football.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Cho Hyun-Woo

Prior to the World Cup, Cho Hyun-Woo told ESPN that he dreams of playing in England and the performances of the South Korea goalkeeper in Russia have increased the possibility of that becoming a reality.

The 26-year-old starred for his nation in a difficult group alongside Mexico, Sweden and Germany but stunned the latter with a shock victory that saw the defending champions knocked out prematurely, with Hyun-Woo capturing plenty of attention for a number of superb stops.

An advisor of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told Dagbladet that the Reds should secure a move for the Daegu FC player and Leicester should be alerted as a result, as he could prove to be a superb acquisition.

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Leicester City

Leicester City would be in dreamland with reported Ahmed Musa windfall

Ahmed Musa has struggled at Leicester City but thrived for his country.

Mathew Nash

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Nigeria fell agonisingly short of knocking Argentina out of the World Cup this summer and many of their players impressed fans with their displays. One player who caught the eye was well-known to fans of one Premier League club. Leicester City forward Ahmed Musa was brilliant for Nigeria in Russia.

Such form has now seen him linked with plenty of moves away from the King Power. The latest reports involved Saudi Arabian outfit Al Nassr. They are seemingly ready to pay a whopping £30 million for the player, as reported by Nigerian source Own Goal Nigeria.

That fee has now been skewed in other reports, with the Leicester Mercury reporting the fee at £40 million. That fee has also been suggested by Score Nigeria earlier this month whilst the Daily Trust also report the news with that fee attached.

(Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

So there is clearly some disparity between the reports.

But at £30 or £40 million this would be great business for Leicester.

Signed for just £16 million in the summer of 2016, the Nigerian managed just five goals in 33 games for the Foxes before being loaned back to CSKA last winter.

Leicester would, therefore, stand to make £24 million if the £40 million assessments are correct. If not, then £14 million would not be bad either.

He would also be sold to a nation where his form would be out of sight and out of mind. Leicester are unlikely to feel any repercussions personally if he is sent to Dubai. If he scores a litany of goals? Then people will just criticise the standard of football.

At £30 million it is a magnificent deal for Leicester. At £40 million, they are in dreamland.

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