Seven Foreshore Years: Kelechi Ịheanachọ


 Seven years ago, the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria conquered the World for the 4th time to lift the FIFA U-17 World Cup in United Arab Emirates.

Kelechi Ịheanachọ at the U-17 World in UAE. Getty Image

The renowned 'Seniorman Kelz' played a significant role where he won the Golden Ball award for player of the tournament. Ịheanachọ scored six times, including once in the final, and provided seven assists. 

“I’m yet to see a player of his age who can score goals around the 18-yard box with such class and composure like he does,” Manu Garba remarked after being quizzed on how crucial Ịheanacho was to their title success in UAE.  

Things moved quickly for the young Nigerian as Manchester City football club secured his signature in January, 2014. The 24-year old gained promotion to the Manchester City senior squad for the 2014/15 season. 


BREAKOUT SEASON

A year after scoring in the 2015 FA Youth Cup final for City u18s, Ịheanachọ took to the field for UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid. 

Ịheanachọ x Casemeiro in the UEFA Champions League Semi Finals 


When the legendary David Silva limped off the pitch in the 40th minute, Manual Pellegrini trusted and handed the 19-year old Nigerian his third appearance in the competition. 

In what was Manchester city most important game of the season, it showed how far his manager trusted him and in his abilities.  


In one of his best outing for the cityzens, Kelechi struck twice against Stoke, won a penalty and earned the Man of the Match accolade.


A performance which left his manager full of praise for the young Nigerian.


Pellegrini told journalists: “Kelechi is a player with an important role at this Club. He played very well and his contribution is important. I am very pleased." 


LACK OF CONFIDENCE

Kelechi Iheanacho’s lack of confidence was a factor in his exclusion from Nigeria’s final Africa Cup of Nations squad that won bronze in Egypt. 

I can’t take every one of you to AFCON. All the players showed good character, good mentality throughout this week, but we just must drop two players.


“It’s so unfortunate and a difficult moment for Ịheanachọ and Ajayi missing out but they are still part of the team.” Gernot Rohr speaking to the press on Ịheanachọ's unavailability on the Final squad list. 


Gernot Rohr said Ịheanachọ’s professionalism had improved but that he lacked self-esteem after eight months without a goal.  

Ịheanachọ returned back to the Super Eagles after being left out of the squad that made it to Egypt. 

"It is very good news for us," Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr told ESPN. "I am very happy and very proud because he worked very hard and is now playing and scoring."

Ịheanachọ assisted Osimhen in the Super Eagles latest game against Lesotho in Lagos. 



THE FOXES TOOK THE CHANCE

Seniorman Kelz with the Premier League POTM. Photo credit - Leicester City Official Twitter page 


Ịheanachọ's £25m move to Leicester City was largely expected by supporters after he found playing time difficult under Pep Guardiola. His form was a far cry from the forward who had been destined for greatness after breaking out at Manchester City in the summer of 2015 under Manuel Pellegrini. At the end of the 2015/16 campaign, stats from Opta Joe stated the then-City man had the best goals-to-minutes ratio in the league. The foxes took the chance and expected to see the young man display his quality in the future. 

“We’ve tracked his progress for some time, so we know how much quality he’ll bring to the squad. He’s young, he’s hungry, he’s ready for the next stage of his development and I’m delighted that will be with Leicester City.” “It’s a great signing for us. Kelechi is an enormously talented player that has shown a huge amount of promise at every level in which he’s played,” then Leicester boss Craig Shakespeare asserted.

Ịheanachọ scored his first Premier League hat-trick in a 5–0 win against Sheffield United on 14 March 2021. A week later, Ịheanachọ netted a brace in Leicester's 3–1 win over Manchester United in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, sending the club into the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 1981–82. Iheanacho won the Premier League Player of the Month award ahead of in March 2021 after scoring five goals in three league appearances. 

With Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy now 34 years of age, the club will be rest assured that 'Seniorman Kelz' is ready to take up the crown.




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