5 things you should know about new Manchester United signing Odion Ighalo
The January 2020 deadline day will likely be remembered for the bizarre rather than the remarkable.
In what transpired to be the lowest-spending Premier League deadline day since 2010, Manchester United concluded their search for a striker which started with Erling Braut Haaland, moved onto Josh King before finally landing on a loan deal for Odion Ighalo.
Ighalo should be a familiar name for Premier League fans - a fundamental part of Watford’s first season back in the top flight, he scored 15 Premier League goals in 2015/16, before the goals dried up and China came calling.
But for those who don’t know him, here’s five things to make sure you’re clued up on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s new man.
From dodging bullets to eating snow
Ighalo grew up in the Nigerian ghetto of Ajegunle, where he would practice by kicking around tin cans.
During training in Nigeria, he remembers there would be cannabis dealers working on the side of the pitch, while the players would sometimes have to jump to the floor at the sound of gunshots.
Ighalo has paid tribute to his humble beginnings by sending his wages home to support widows living beneath the poverty line and most recently spending £1 million to fund an orphanage in Lagos.
Ighalo left Nigeria to move to Norwegian outfit Lyn in 2007, and upon seeing snow for the first time, he ate it.
He told The Mirror in 2015: “I was like a child. I was eating it, rubbing it on my head, throwing it in the air like confetti... it was a new toy.”
Boyhood United fan
The Odion Ighalo Story
From Ajegunle to Manchester United pic.twitter.com/aZTEPT9vJL
— Akinpelumi Akinboye (@theakinakinboye) February 1, 2020
After helping Watford to promotion from the Championship in 2015, Ighalo, a boyhood United fan, said the thing he was most looking forward to about the Premier League was playing at Old Trafford.
Now, he’ll take to the Old Trafford pitch wearing the colours of the team he worshipped as a boy.
He told Sky Sports News: "It's a dream come true because since I was a kid I followed and dreamt of Manchester United.”
The 30-year-old, whose idols growing up were legendary strike duo Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, has even had the trademark childhood photo in a United shirt, in case we needed any proof.
Watford’s ascent to the Premier League and survival in their first season was largely centred around the strike partnership of Ighalo and Troy Deeney. They netted Championship 41 goals between them in the Hornets’ promotion season in 2014/15.
Ighalo then made a flying start to Premier League life, scoring 13 times in the league before the turn of year. In fact, he ended 2015 as the top goalscorer in England’s four top divisions over the calendar year, his 30 goals three ahead of Harry Kane.
He was linked with the likes of Arsenal, but his form dried up and hard and fast - he would only score two more Premier league goals that season, and one more in 18 appearances in 2016/17.
Instead, he moved to Chinese outfit Changchun Yatai in January 2017 for a reported £20 million.
Shanghai over Messi?
At the beginning of last year, Ighalo turned down the chance to play alongside Lionel Messi, according to, well, himself.
Ighalo had just finished as second-top goalscorer in his second season in China, despite his side getting relegated, apparently prompting interest from the Catalan giants.
He said: “It was meant to be a six-month loan and strictly as a back-up striker.
“But with due respect, I had just finished as the second top scorer in China with 21 goals, I deserve better and didn’t want to be a short-term player somewhere.
Instead, he joined Shanghai Shenhua, which, according to Ighalo, was an easy decision to make - surely made easier by his £300,000 per week pay packet.
Having missed out on Ighalo, Barcelona secured a similarly bizarre six-month loan deal for 32-year-old Kevin-Prince Boateng, so perhaps the interest was true after all.
Outscoring Mane and Salah
Ighalo would do well to keep up with the numbers of Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah in the Premier League - but he’s done it before, twice.
After a torrid World Cup where he failed to find the net and received death threats after Nigeria’s group stage exit, he topped the goalscoring charts in the African Cup of Nations qualifying with seven goals.
He then replicated the feat at the tournament itself, scoring five as Nigeria came in third place - Mane and Salah, by contrast - got three and two respectively.
He retired immediately after the tournament, ending his international career on some high.
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