In Focus: Osimhen can help Super Eagles soar once more
Victor Osimhen has become a football superstar since his last appearance for Nigeria.
The striker’s most recent caps for the Super Eagles came in the opening Africa Cup of Nations qualification fixtures in June 2022.
That was before a stunning season at Napoli in which the 24-year-old has been scoring at a remarkable rate, shooting the Italian club to a probable Serie A title.
Ahead of Nigeria’s qualifier against Guinea-Bissau today, we examine what will now be expected of Osimhen on the international stage.
Though Osimhen has only thrust himself into the limelight in the high-profile world of European football this season, his reputation in Nigeria was already stellar.
His record of 15 goals from 23 appearances for his country shows that he has long been a player that can be relied upon to deliver at international level.
When he last played for Nigeria, he scored in a 2-1 win over Sierra Leone and then hit four and assisted two more in a 10-0 win over Sao Tome and Principe.
Such performances already led to sky-high expectations but the pressure has increased thanks to his sensational season at Napoli.
The good news for Nigeria is that the hotshot is continually proving that he can deliver on the big occasion.
In his third season at Napoli, Osimhen has lived up to club-record transfer fee paid to Lille.
After scoring 10 goals in 30 games in his debut campaign and then 18 in 32 in 2021-22, the Lagos-born forward is now showing his full ability.
Osimhen has 25 strikes in 29 appearances, which has led Napoli to the verge of securing the Serie A title and created a realistic path to the Champions League final.
Europe’s biggest clubs have been linked with his signing, though any move could be a step down considering that Luciano Spalletti’s side are arguably the best on the continent right now.
Wherever his future at club level might hold, Nigeria can look forward to having continued access to one of the world’s best strikers.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the recent World Cup and Osimhen has this week promised that he and his team-mates will make up for the disappointment caused.
The striker said: "We are looking forward to it and I am happy to be back in the squad. It is an amazing feeling and I am really expecting amazing results in the game against Guinea-Bissau.
"I want to promise that we will try everything possible to get the win and of course, I would like to contribute with a lot of goals and a couple of assists, but the team come first.
"I want to assure that the players will give everything to make sure the fans are happy by getting the win and getting qualification to AFCON.
"I want to say thank you very much for your support, thank you for sticking with me, most especially your support throughout the years.
"I know we might have let you down in the past. I want to say we will do everything in our power to make sure that we win your love back."
Nigeria cannot be expected to play like Napoli but the standard of opposition defenders is generally weaker than Osimhen faces in Serie A and the Champions League.
Manager Jose Peseiro has some talented players at his disposal, especially in attacking areas.
Aside from Osimhen, he has another player delivering in Serie A this season. Atalanta ace Ademola Lookman is the joint-third top scorer with 12 goals.
Having two in-form forwards is a massive plus for any coach and Nigeria should easily progress from their AFCON qualifying group, having already won their first two games.
The Super Eagles have not been crowned as champions of the continent since 2013. In Osimhen they have a player who can help them to return to such a level.