Victor Osimhen, a player moulded by the hard streets of Lagos and thrust into global spotlight, is keeping things in focus as he looks set to make his way to Europe.
Following an impressive year where he set a new scoring record at the Fifa U17 World Cup as Nigeria won the title for a fifth time, the 17-year-old has now been listed in Goal’s 50 best players under 18.
Osimhen has found himself in good company in a list that includes Real Madrid’s Martin Odegaard, Brazil’s Gerson, Basel’s Embolo and Anderlecht’s Youri Tielemans.
Though he is yet to sign a professional contract, Osimhen already parades star quality and is expected to become one of the world’s best players if his development continues.
Standing at 1.85metres (6 ft1in), the Ultimate Strikers Academy player packs pace and power in his slim frame. His calmness in front of goal ensured he scored against the best defenders and goalkeepers in every game he played during the cadet championship in Chile last October.
It is a difficult task to find Osimhen these days. On a Saturday in December, I stopped to watch him train at the Olusosun Grammar School in Ojota, a Lagos suburb famous for the dumpsite where the metropolis’ rubbish gets treated.
However, an older footballer, who claimed to know him, said the striker had not been seen since his exploits in South America.
I learnt that the youngster is being kept under close watch by his minders to avoid contact with sweet-talking agents bearing charming contract proposals. His phone numbers are constantly changed and he is wary of picking voice calls from unlisted numbers.
Our interview would be arranged via WhatsApp, through a third party.
Yet he is not unsettled by the attention.
“I feel great to be thrust in the spotlight at such a young age, the feeling I get is so overwhelming, getting recognized as a young player is a big achievement for me,” Osimhen told Goal after he was listed among the 50 best wonderkids in the world on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, Osimhen was named the best young player in Africa by the Confederation of African Football at an awards gala in Abuja. The accolades keep piling up for one so young with a lot of years ahead of him.
“I give God all the glory. I know loads of people are expecting big from me as long as football is concerned but all I have to say is that I will continue to do my best for my country…and also club.”
If there is hesitation in talking about “club”, it is because the youngster is on the verge of a move to Europe where he has spoken about his decision to play for German side Wolfsburg.
In our interview he declared emphatically that his “next destination is GERMANY” despite reports that his agents might also be shopping for potential suitors in England.
An avowed fan of former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, Osimhen never tires of talking about his idol.
“He’s the kind of striker I would love to be and even better than,” he said. “He’s a great person even though I haven’t met him in person.
“He’s very passionate about football and has achieved a lot in football and [an] inspirational figure above all. I love Drogba a lot,” he gushed.
“He never gives up no matter the situation of the game and that has been the mentality which has led me to where I am today and will continue to guide me.”
There have been promising young players from Africa in the past that did not live up to the high expectations. Yet good role models abound like Drogba, Nwankwo Kanu and Michael Essien, men who achieved a lot during their careers.
The young striker received praise from his older compatriot Odion Ighalo of Watford in a Goal interview last year.
“He’s a good striker, he’s young, he’s sharp, he has speed, he’s a good finisher and I hope he makes history,” Ighalo told Goal.
“I’m wishing him all the very best and he should remain humble, he will rule his generation.”
The world, it seems, is at Osimhen’s feet, and like a ball, he will strike it according to his own terms.


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