While it’s trite to talk of sporting tragedies amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Odion Ighalo’s fairytale move to Manchester United is in danger of ending in early regret and disappointment.
The ridicule that accompanied Ighalo’s deadline-day signing at Old Trafford quickly turned to admiration and marvel when the Nigerian striker’s backstory and long-term affinity with the club came to light.
On one hand, yes, the Red Devils turning to a China-based striker, the wrong side of 30, to ease their goalscoring woes in the absence of Marcus Rashford was an indicator of the state the club find themselves in these days.
While Borussia Dortmund were parading around new boy Erling Haaland, the next big thing in the world game, United were ruing their inability to sign the wonderkid, and instead hoping that a striker who had once been cast off by Watford would appease supporters.
Ighalo has rediscovered his scoring form in China, but don’t forget that the striker once endured a hideous 599-minute spell without finding the net in the Premier League with the Hornets, as his confidence and composure evaporated.
Older, definitely, wiser, perhaps, he was, at the very least, an atypical signing when he put pen to paper at Old Trafford on January 31.
However, public perception quickly changed on Ighalo, partly due to his own clear affection for the club.
Soon after arriving, he acknowledged that he’d taken a significant pay cut to get the move over the line, while speaking openly of what it meant to his family that he’d become the club’s first Nigerian player.
All of the other big sides in English football have given playing time to Nigerian players—from Victor Moses to John Obi Mikel, from Nwankwo Kanu to Kelechi Iheanacho—but now, finally, United were in on the act.