Can Victor Osimhen be better than Rashidi Yekini for Nigeria?
Background photo: Jeff Attaway, CC-BY-SA 2.0
Victor Osimhen is a man on fire at the moment. For club and country, the young man bangs in goals like they're going out of fashion. But this isn’t the first time a Nigerian striker burst onto the scene, guns blazing, only to fade into obscurity just when fans began to take serious notice. One star who didn’t flatter to deceiv, however, was Rashidi Yekini.
Yekini remains the most revered centre-forward to don the Super Eagles kit. The muscular attacker left an indelible mark on Nigerian football. Unfortunately, he didn't live long enough to enjoy the accolades he deserved. Still, Yekini’s crown as the most prolific Super Eagle in history remains sacred. The Goalsfather, as he was nicknamed, retired from the international scene with 37 goals under his belt.
Spearheading the attack for Nigeria is among the most challenging tasks a striker can undertake. The entire country expects the man to deliver without excuse. When he doesn’t, they call for his head. The pressure has withered a legion of prolific internationals for the Super Eagles. Strikers tend to have an abridged shelf life in the Nigeria setup. Yekini didn’t have it any easier. He was handed just 57 appearances to make his mark.
Other African countries don't exert the same pressure. They enjoy longer careers and rain goals. Samuel Eto’o registered a half-century for Cameroon while Didier Drogba plundered 65 for Cote d'Ivoire.
In recent times, three strikers dared to challenge Yekini’s throne. Each failed. Yakubu Aiyegbeni was doing just fine until he missed a sitter against South Korea at the 2010 World Cup. His career never recovered from the backlash. He retired with 21 goals for the Super Eagles. Ikechukwu Uche was loved by the Eagles faithful but injuries and inexplicable career choices meant he never scored more than 19 times for his country. The same can be said of Obafemi Martins. The former Inter Milan forward sought to resuscitate his international career by moving to China. It didn’t work. He retired with a respectable 18 international strikes.
This crop of Super Eagles is blessed with a handful of impressive young strikers eyeing Yekini’s record. Crotone’s Simy Nwankwo, Genk’s Paul Onuachu and Lille’s Victor Osimhen come to mind. Of the trio, Osimhen is the most likely.
Already building his pile for the Super Eagles, the Lagos-born poacher rifled home four goals in his last four outings for Nigeria. Most recently, he bagged a brace and assisted on the other two tallies in Nigeria’s 4-2 win against Lesotho in the AFCON qualifiers.
It’s important to note Osimhen is only 20. His young age puts him at a massive advantage to break the record. His predecessors were all late bloomers. Osimhen earned his national team call-up at 17 and debuted a year later.
Odion Ighalo’s retirement from national team duties further paves the way for the young man. The Greenland Shenhua forward touted Osimhen to lead the Eagles into a glorious future despite warning him against complacency.
Besides age and talent, Osimhen adopts a business-minded football style. The lad isn’t messing around. He wants to work hard, score and win matches for his country. With such a mentality, Yekini’s record could be a piece of cake.
If Victor Osimhen can consistently manage five goals a year for his country, he’s guaranteed 50 international goals in the next decade. Due respect but this chap can obliterate Yekini’s record right before our eyes. It’s about time.