Kelechi Iheanacho hasn’t been pictured anywhere around Manchester City in the past weeks, if that isn’t troubling enough, the bizarre silence from the club or Pep Guardiola on Iheanacho’ situation or position startles the heart.
Is he injured? Is he on a break? Is he waiting for a medical report too? or to be ludicrous, is he inside the Nigerian High Commission in London as well?
Nigerians, suddenly, are becoming all too familiar with important figure seemingly vanishing from the face of the earth, with little or no explanation as to what happened or what is going on?
No one in Manchester City is talking about Iheanacho as all the focus has been on the shiny new toy Gabriel Jesus. Obviously Gabriel Jesus’ arrival was always going to compromise Kelechi Iheanacho’s position in City which wasn’t built on solid rock in the first place. Iheanacho hasn’t made match day squad since the Brazilian’s debut against Tottenham- four consecutive games.
This has understandably caused a bit of hysteria among Nigerians, who are quickly reverting to their default mode, which is finding the easy way out. For Iheanacho, leaving Manchester City to a smaller club, where he would get minutes would be the easy way. The idea is to get more playing time at a smaller club, prove himself there and return to either Manchester City as a proven and tested player or move on to another club.
This plan has often worked in football, Iheanacho’s teammate Kevin de Bruyne is an example that comes to mind. Chelsea loaned Kevin De Bruyne to Werder Bremen and the Belgian shone at the German club which earned him a recall back to Chelsea. Despite still not cutting it for Mourinho in Chelsea, De Bruyne was sold to Wolfsburg which eventually became a castalyst for a big money move to Manchester City. Victor Moses is also an example if you’re looking for a Nigerian context. After journeying across seas and deserts on loan , Victor Moses finally got his break through under Antonio Conte.
Easy as it seems, the easy way out is not the only way out neither is it the wisest way out.
Many Nigerian footballers walk this path at the slightest form of competition and rather than being a catalyst for a rise, it is usually the opposite. If we start to run the list, we will like end the day a toad becomes Miss World. Names like Jay Jay Okocha, Obafemi Martins and Kanu Nwankwo readily comes to mind.
Nigerian footballers don’t exactly rise above the mediocrity that swamps average clubs. If anything, they mix with the crowd and before you say ‘Jack’, they are already being benched at that average club and soon would be seeking a move to a lesser one.
It is pertinent for Kelechi Iheanacho to step up and fight for a place in City. The competition will be good for him and it could step up to his game
a notch or two. If Iheanacho decides to fight for a place, one thing is for sure, he will improve and despite being on the fringes now, nothing hits a nail that he will be forever. He can learn from Yaya Toure, who is now back in the first team after several months of being ostracized by Pep Guardiola. Easy thing for Yaya to do would be to find another club and he wouldn’t be short of suitors but Yaya summoned enough courage to keep fighting for a place in the team.
Kelechi Iheanacho must realize he is young and still has a lot to learn and no better place to learn than among the best.
Written by Joseph Bassey- follow on Twitter @akajoebass