By Akinwale Kasali
It wasn’s surprising to football analysts over the omission of Leicester City striker, Kelechi Iheanacho from the Super Eagles squad that faced Seychelles and Egypt in the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifiers and International friendly last month.
Coach Gernot Rohr openly criticised the performance and lackluster attitude of Iheanacho during international duties. He said for Iheanacho to remain in contention for the 2019 AFCON tournament, he has to be more serious minded.
Since Claude Puel was sacked by Leicester City earlier this year, Iheanacho struggled to cement a place in the squad. He was just fortunate to make cameo appearances and wasn’t impressive anytime he was called upon.
When Brendan Rodgers took over the saddle as Leicester City coach, Iheanacho has been shut out of the team.
The once highly rated youngster has basically become a shadow of himself, as he has been relegated to the bench.
in a poll done by the club yesterday, Iheanacho was rated the fifth worst performer of the season, while his compatriot in the Super Eagles fold, Wilfried Ndidi was rated one of the top five best performer of the season.
When Iheanacho stood out of the crowd during the 2013 Under-17 FIFA World Cup at the United Arab Emirates, the world knew a wonder-kid has arrived to change the fortune of the nation at the world stage.
Iheanacho rise to fame was meteoric.
At the 2013 African U-17 Championship in Morocco, Iheanacho, shone brightly when he scored a hat-trick in a win against Botswana. He didn’t stop there as he was part of the the same team which went on to win the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
He scored six goals to win the Golden Boot. These opened the doors for his sojourn to England where he was snatched by the Premiership side, Manchester City. As he was not 18 yet, he signed for Man City Academy in January 2014. Even though he was not yet a full City player, he was picked to join them in the pre-season tour of United States and did so well.
After the 2015 pre-season tour of Australia where he impressed, Iheanacho was drafted to the senior team.in July. One month after, on August 10, he made his debut as a first team player.
From then on, he found favour with the club’s coach, Manuel Pellegrini and he didn’t disappoint the Italian. Even though his profile rose, Iheanacho did not display the spirit of a team player.
Such was that even when he scores at Man City, he celebrated alone away from onrushing team-mates who want to pat him on the back or head for his feat. That singular attitude created some problem for him as it seemed. Teammates started distancing themselves from him and he increasingly started becoming lonely. Balls were no longer going to him and his goal scoring prowess started dwindling.
Sadly, Iheanacho’s once glory has suddenly dwindled.
This hope faded with the same momentum they had nursed it and the fans wondered what had gone wrong with the once mercurial Iheanacho who was praised by football commentators in the Premiership.
The young player who was once tipped to be part of the new Super Eagles Gernot Rohr was gradually building for the future started gaining weight. Was it due to lack of playing time and spending too much time on the bench or that he was not training enough? Nobody could say precisely what the problem was.