Stepping out to the roar of an unfamiliar crowd can put many players off. Bright lights, big defenders giving you the stare, and the feeling of all eyes on you. Young or old, the pressure to perform for the new faithful, the people who have placed all their hope on you, can be overwhelming. Victor Osimhen, however, lived up to the expectations and burst onto the Lille scene by scoring the 2 goals needed to beat Nantes in their opener for the new Ligue 1 season. Follow that with another 2 against Saint Etienne and the young Nigerian is firmly settled into his new home. A difficult past, scattered with glorious highs and difficult lows, Osimhen is FootballOwl’s first One to Watch of the 2019/2020 season!
Born in December 1998 in Lagos, Nigeria, Osimhen grew up in the academies before joining the Ultimate Strikers Academy in Nigeria. When looking for role models as a young striker, some names spring to mind. Hugely talented, incredible mindset, true professional and natural goalscorer, Didier Drogba shone through for the youngster. Fast forward to the summer of 2015, and we reach the first turning point in Osimhen’s journey.
Victor Osimhen’s Nigeria heroics
Performing for your country is an honour, and cracking the World Cup team for the Under-17s is something people only dream of. But dreams do come true and, a staggering 10 goals later, Osimhen is standing with a winners medal, Golden Boot and Silver Ball as Nigeria collected their fifth title. Follow this only a few months later with another winners medal, this time for the Under-23s AFCON (still only 17 years old) and the youngster has really stamped his name on football.
These performances don’t go unnoticed and, soon after, contracts for Wolfsburg and Arsenal were sitting in front of the young striker. Not surprising for someone with not one, but two national winners medals, along with the 2015 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Youth Player of the Year trophy bulging in their back pocket.
Victor Osimhen at Wolfsburg and shift to Belgium
Deciding to sign for Wolfsburg, the Nigerian had to wait until his 18th birthday to join up with the senior side. Unfortunately we reach what was a low point in the young career. Injuries prevented any real run of games, and in 2 seasons, he only managed to don the iconic green shirt 16 times, remaining goalless.
Sinking lower still, Osimhen had summer trials with Belgian clubs Zulte Waregem and Club Brugge, who were the reigning champions. However, a summer bout with malaria had affected his physical condition, and neither club decided to take him on loan. Charleroi decided to take the striker on loan, and he signed for them in the Summer of 2018. This proved to be a genius move. Osimhen, having battled through, was a regular starter, and a regular scorer for the Belgian side.
“It was tough in Germany because of the high expectations – some people started doubting me and also pushed me to start doubting myself as well. The football in Belgium has helped, I also have a wonderful group of players around me and the coaching crew have been great with me. As a young player, you hear people comparing you to other stars who emerged from the under-17 World Cup and never fulfilled their potential. But now at Charleroi I have comfortably found my happiness again, and I thank everyone in Belgium and at Wolfsburg for the opportunity and support.”https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/46344657
The striker finished the season with 20 goals in 36 appearances and the club snapped up the option to buy from Wolfsburg.
Victor Osimhen in Lille
Unfortunately for the Belgian side, across the border in France, young striker Leao was boarding a plane to sign a contract for AC Milan. Facing a loss of a striker, and their star player in Nicolas Pepe, Lille needed to fill the goalscoring gap. They looked to Belgium and, more specifically, a young Nigerian striker by the name of Osimhen. Soon after, the clubs agreed on a fee of £10.5million, and the move was sealed. As mentioned in the introduction, the goals have flowed thick and fast since his league debut in August of this year. 4 goals in 4 games means he is sitting top of the scorers list at the time of writing.
Victor Osimhen – Play style
Tall for a striker, Osimhen stands at 6’1″. Strong and agile, he is a tough man to get off the ball. A low centre of gravity allows a good change in direction and creates problems for opposing defenders.
Always on his toes, an observer can see just how hungry he is for goals. His first 2 for Lille both came from hopeful balls more than anything else. But, keen to impress, Osimhen latched onto defenders mistakes and capitalised. Huge strides, similar to that of a certain 100m sprinter, mean speed is on his side and it shows on the pitch.
Averaging 3.3 shots per game, the striker does not have a high number per game. Instead choosing his shots and being clinical are the strikers game (at the time of writing, Aguero, Harry Kane and Antoine Griezmann are averaging the same number of shots). A smart finisher, Osimhen tends to opt for the low and hard shot and, with a strike like his, it’s not difficult to see why!
Strong and powerful in the air, Osimhen provides another dimension to the pitch that many modern-day strikers do not. Winning an impressive 5.3 headers per game, only 18 strikers in Europe have more.
Looking to the weaker side of the game, passing is something that can be improved upon. With only a 63.3% pass accuracy, the striker will have to learn to link up better with his team mates to be considered a top striker. Despite this, goals are the name of the game for a striker, and it’s clear the young Nigerian has plenty of them to offer! Providing 4 assists last season as well, the opportunities are there.
Victor Osimhen and the future
Having been pivotal to the good start Lille have enjoyed, playing as the striker in this team will be the goal. Thanks to an incredible season last year, the French side find themselves in the Champions League, sitting in a tough group alongside last year’s semi-finalists in Ajax (albeit a significantly different and potentially weaker side than the heroes of last season) and Europa League winners Chelsea.
Looking to the National side, Osimhen has earned his place in the senior Nigeria team, and will be looking to continue this throughout his career.
A different option to Leao last season, the young striker may have to adapt to follow the Lille style of play created by manager Galtier, but the outcome is surely something to keep an eye on.