LONDON (Reuters) – Al-Shabab star striker Odion Ighalo is in the midst of a row between clubs and countries that seriously threatens his participation in the Africa Cup of Nations, which begins in Cameroon on Sunday.
While club officials decline to comment on the situation, according to reports in Nigeria, Al-Shabab refuses to release the former Manchester United striker on the grounds that the Nigerian Football Association missed the official deadline to call the player to. 32 years old. .
Ighalo, who has scored 16 times for his country, is currently the Saudi Pro League’s top scorer of the season, and his 11 goals have helped the Riyadh club climb to second place.
Augustine Eguavoen, the interim coach of Nigeria who was appointed in December to succeed the sacked Gernot Rohr, has not yet made a statement on Ighalo, simply saying on Tuesday: “I hope Odion will come … The only one thing is to change the style of play. because the staff are not there as we expected.
The situation echoes the December dispute between Nigeria and Watford after the English Premier League club refused to release Emmanuel Dennis, saying the African team missed the deadline to seek his release.
Local media quoted Eguaoven last Friday after a training session in Abuja as saying Dennis wanted to go to Cameroon but was prevented from doing so by the Hornets facing relegation.
“Watford prevented him from participating in CAN,” Eguavoen said. “Dennis told me he wanted to come for the tournament but Watford threatened him (not to) come.”
Watford coach Claudio Ranieri has denied his side disrespected Nigeria or Africa’s flagship event.
“No no. No, we respect everyone,” said the Italian. “They have a lot of players and they changed managers, then they changed everything, and we were ready. We knew we were ready to give to the players, but they didn’t.
Reports in Nigeria say the national team are hoping to call on Feyenoord striker Cyril Dessers to replace Ighalo.
The Super Eagles, who won the last of their three continental titles in 2013, kick off their AFCON campaign in a highly anticipated Group D clash against Egypt next Tuesday. After that will come the matches against Sudan and Guinea-Bissau.
Nigeria are used to living without Ighalo as they withdrew from international football after CAN 2019 when they finished top scorer with five goals which helped the team reach third place. In November, however, he responded to his country’s summons and played against Cape Verde in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.
Nigeria are due to leave for Cameroon on Wednesday and, assuming Ighalo is not on the plane, he will be available for three crucial league games over the next two weeks in the Saudi Pro League as Al-Shabab takes on Abha. , Ettifaq et al. -Fateh. As it stands, the club are only one point behind Al-Ittihad having won eight of the last nine games.
His form this season has seen Ighalo linked with a move to struggling EPL side Newcastle United. Former Tottenham Hotspur and England goalkeeper Paul Robinson, however, warned the Magpies against a punt on the well-traveled forward.
“He is unreliable and I don’t think Newcastle are in a position to take any risks,” Robinson told the Football Insider website. “Financially, they’re in a position where they can go for a top quality striker who is less risky than him. I just don’t think Ighalo is the player they’re looking for.