In 2013 at the FIFA U17 World Cup, Kelechi Iheanacho caught the attention of the world.
Fourteen days before kick off he clocked 17 and the young forward celebrated his new age by inspiring Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets to a fourth world cup triumph and was voted player of the tournament.
As far as his trade of goalscoring is concerned, Iheanacho scored six of Nigeria’s 26 goals, 4.3 percent of the team’s total.
He got tongues wagging as several scouts tipped him to cast as big a shadow as Kanu Nwankwo did after 1993.
Not so long after, the Daniel Bryan-styled celebration appeared in Manchester, as the teen sensation was prised from Taye Academy in Lagos by Premier League side Manchester City to the club’s Elite Development Squad.
Three years after his success at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Iheanacho made his first competitive senior team debut for Manchester City on home ground.
That season he went to make 26 league appearances and scored 8 goals. In total he made 35 appearances in all competitions, scoring 14 goals.
He was certainly on the rise, unlocking his potentials under Manager Manuel Pellegrini.
But a change of Management at the club saw Pep Guardiola appointed to take the reigns in what would become Iheanacho’s last season.
With limited playing opportunities as he dropped further down the pecking order to third choice striker behind Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, the young Nigerian took a rain check and his services to Leicester.
The transition didn’t quite work out well for the Forward and he soon found life in the East Midlands as tough.
A complete and drastic switch of the style of play exposed what are inherently his weakness; pace and precision.
Iheanacho was on the precipice at the King Power Stadium and would have been cut loose two years into his five-year deal but suitors weren’t willing to share in his hefty £60,000 per week wage.
As he struggled in Leicester, his form took a hit and even his national team position went from threatened to outright omission.
From making three appearances at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, his first major senior international competition, Iheanacho was dropped by the Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rohr for the campaign in the African Nations Cup in 2019.
He was the only player from the 2013 U17s that had enjoyed a smooth transition through the youth national teams.
Iheanacho had certainly hit the nadir and was almost blown into football oblivion.
But Leicester needing a new direction and purpose, four managers after the sacking of Claudio Ranieri in 2017, hired former Liverpool Boss Brendan Rodgers from Celtic in February of 2019.
In Rodgers’ first full season in charge, Iheanacho did not play a competitive game until September in the League Cup. His first Premier League appearance came in December against Everton.
Introduced in the final quarter of the match, he registered his first EPL goal after 24 league matches, dating back to September 2018.
That marked the beginning of a what became a gradual revival of his form and as confidence crept back into the player so it did in his teammates and Coaches.
Before the suspension of all football activities in March due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Iheanacho was performing much like his old self.
He had notched 8 goals in all competitions, meager, but an improvement from his previous season where he scored only 2 goals across all competitions – in 35 matches.
In his last season at Manchester City the forward scored four goals creating 3 assists in 20 league appearances.
He managed 22 shots, only 7 were on target averaging 32 percent in shooting accuracy – he also missed three big chances.
Last season, he registered 36 shots, 20 were on target and his accuracy improved to 56 percent.
The improvements show Rogers has had some measurable impact in the abilities of the Nigerian and obviously more than any other Manager since Pellegrini.
His U17 Coach, Manu Garba believes the Forward was derailed, possibly by bad influences off the pitch.
In an interview with The Athletic as quoted by Kunle Fayiga [Goal], Manu said:
I’m still wondering how Kelechi didn’t emerge as one of the best in England. He might have fallen under bad influences from friends, coming from a poor background to an improved status.
That can become a distraction when you are so young, but I have seen the old Iheanacho at Leicester.
Iheanacho is an asset to any club if the manager understands him, helps him and works on his off-the-ball contribution.
He will be useful coming behind the main striker because his final passes are inch-perfect and he can shoot from distance. He will be a good player for Leicester.
At this point Kelechi Iheanacho isn’t delivering on the promise many saw in 2013 and at 23 he might not get many chances at the very top if he doesn’t switch to top gear.
He has been linked with a move to Turkish side Fenerbahce and according to Tom Leach [leicestermercury], Rodgers is keen on signing Ousmane Edouard from Celtic this summer as the Nigerian’s replacement.
Whether or not Iheanacho has reached his full potentials is entirely up to the player to decide, but he is in a race against time.
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