Ighalo explains early Super Eagles retirement


On-loan Manchester United forward Odion Ighalo says he hastily cut his Nigeria career short to concentrate on his club career.

Ighalo, who is in the books of Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua, called time on his international career with the ‘Super Eagles’ shortly after winning the top scorer award at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He scored five goals in the tournament as Nigeria finished third.

Ighalo says the long distance between China to Nigeria was wearing him out each time he had to travel for national team duty.

He is convinced he made the decision at the right time, paving way for exciting young players in the Super Eagles team.

“I needed to stop because it is too long from China to Nigeria for national team duties, I am not getting young again and we have lot of young exciting players coming up, Victor Osimhen doing so well, Iwobi and Chukwueze are there. I thought about it, this is the right time for me to leave,” Ighalo, who’s 30, said via an Instagram Live.

He admitted it was a difficult decision because of his love for his country.

“It’s a country that gave me everything I have today so anytime I’m being called upon to play for my country it is a joy to play.”

A former Flying Eagles captain, Ighalo made his full debut for the Super Eagles in a friendly against Uganda in March 2015 and ended his national team career with 15 goals in 34 games.

He completed a shock move to United on deadline day of the January transfer window. He has managed an impressive return of four goals in eight appearances this season.

After the move was confirmed, Ighalo revealed that he had taken a pay cut to make the move happen, calling it a ‘dream’ to join the club he has long supported.

In March 2020, he was offered a contract extension worth over £400,000 (R9.4 million) a week by Shenhua.

With the restart of the English Premiership still unclear because of the ongoing lockdown, Ighalo’s future hangs in the balance, with the loan deal set to expire at the end of this month.

His Shanghai contract runs until New Year’s Eve 2021, but the Red Devils do have the option to buy in the next window, under the terms of his loan deal.

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By Mthokozisi Dube

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