Nigerian forward and Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) top-scorer Odion Jude Ighalo has followed his captain John Obi Mikel in announcing his retirement from international football, shortly after the conclusion of the tournament in Cairo.
The 30-year-old Ighalo posted his goodbyes on his official Instagram page on Friday night, expressing his delight at his five-year Super Eagles career.
“This is one of the most difficult career decisions I have had to take,” said Ighalo.
“It’s been an amazing five-year journey, but after due consultation and extensive discussion with my family, I have decided it’s time for me to retire from the national team. It’s has been an eventful and most memorable opportunity to serve my country with pride, passion and to contribute my quota to the development of our football.”
Playing in his first Afcon, Ighalo has been the centre for Nigeria’s attack. He stepped off the bench to score in Nigeria’s 1-0 win over Burundi in the group stages, before scoring twice in their dramatic 3-2 win over Cameroon in the Round of 16.
He scored in their 2-1 defeat to Algeria in the semifinals, hitting an equaliser from the penalty spot.
His importance to the team didn’t stop there as he went on to score the lone goal that saw them beat Tunisia 1-0 and clinch third place to crown their return to the Cup of Nations after a six-year absence.
Ighalo currently plies his trade in the Chinese Super League with Shanghai Greenland Shenhua and has been a man on form, scoring nine goals so far in seven appearances. He moved to Shenhua at the beginning of the year after two seasons with Changchung Yatai following their relegation to second-tier.
Even in their relegation, Ighalo was in scintillating form and in 2017 scored 15 goals in 27 games. Last season, he improved his tally, hitting 21 goals in 28 games to finish second in the top-scorers’ list.
Ighalo moved to China in January 2017, from English Premier League side Watford, where he carved a partnership with club captain Troy Deeney.
He had amazing stats in Watford and made history by becoming the first Watford player to score in six straight top-flight games.
He made a name for himself at Watford after scoring 15 goals on their return to the Premier League in 2015 and most famously scored 30 goals during the 2015 calendar year. It was the highest of any player in England’s four professional tiers.
Ighalo grew up in a humble family background growing up in an area called Ajegunle on the outskirts of Nigeria’s biggest city Lags where his football journey began. He started his journey at the Osun Football Club before moving to Julius Berger.
He made his first professional move abroad in 2007 when he joined Norwegian club Lyn 1896 after two seasons, he was scouted by Italian side Udinese and joined them in 2008 where he spent six years until 2014.
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