Man Utd and Chelsea are jostling for position in the queue to sign Victor Osimhen. Johnny Nic ponders ‘What’s So Great About…’ the £100million-plus Napoli hit-man…
Who’s this then?
Victor James Osimhen is a 6’1” Nigerian striker who plays in Serie A for table-topping Napoli, is one of the most successful and in-demand strikers in Europe, liable to attract a huge fee this summer. He scored two goals in the Champions League against Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday.
Born in Lagos in December 1998 he played for Ultimate Strikers Academy in Nigeria and aged just 17 made a huge impression at the 2015 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, which Nigeria won and our Vic picked up the Golden Boot and Silver Ball after netting 10 goals in seven games.
Wolfsburg liked what they saw, so in January 1997 they fired up the money hose, blasted 3.5million euros into Ult. Striker’s bank account and took him to Germany. However, it was a year before he made his full debut and in 16 appearances he didn’t score, so he was loaned out to Charleroi in the Belgian Premier League.
Although the club finished ninth, he netted 10 times in 36 appearances. This made the bigger boys sit up and raise a quizzical eye but Charleroi activated a clause in their loan deal to buy VJO for 3.5million euros in July 2019, but in August, French outfit Lille turned up drunk and let 22.4million euros fall out of their pocket, bundled him into the back of a rusty 2CV and took him to the capital of Flanders.
One season later he had won Player Of The Season, made 38 appearances and scored 18 goals and was looking like one of hottest young forwards in Europe. Consequently his price rocketed skywards. When Napoli arrived at Lille, pointed at Victor and said ‘we’d like one of him please’. ‘It’ll cost you 75million euros’, said Lille. I Ciucciarelli coughed up the moolah and he’s been there since 2020-21 season.
He’s scored 51 goals in 90 games and 23 in 28 this season. In February he became the first player in the history of Napoli (in the three-point era) to score in seven league games in a row. He’s expected to cost well north of £100million to get him out of Naples and into the Premier League. With Napoli 18 points ahead at the top of Serie A, he’s set to win his first club silverware of his career and they are some critics who fancy them as dark horses for the Champions League. Especially after this draw.
His international career started in 2017. He helped Nigeria finish third in the African Cup Of Nations in 2019 and he’s now scored 15 times in 22 appearances.
🔵 Osimhen: "We keep dreaming, we have no limits."@sscnapoli || #UCL pic.twitter.com/ifpv8Au9jH
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 16, 2023
Why the love?
This is an era of skilful, tall, athletic strikers and our man definitely fits that definition. His statistics tell their own story: 180 appearances, 89 goals and 24 assists to date. The modern striker needs to chip in with assists as well as rack up the goals, even if, like Victor, you’re playing almost every game as an out and out centre forward, whether as part of Napoli’s front three in a 4-3-3 or as as the furthest one in a 4-1-4-1
There are three classic VJO finishes. The first is the through ball which puts him in a sprint against a defender. He’s been clocked at 36.6km/h this season which puts him in the top five fastest in Europe. So inevitably he accelerates past the defenders to finish with a lashed shot. The second is a towering header. He seems to be able to leap higher than the bar and nod it down into the goal via one of those CR7-branded ‘long hangs’. The third is a standard, ‘right place at the right time’ six-yard-box snaffle.
With 21 headed goals he’s a danger in the air as well as on the deck. Until this season he’d only scored three goals with his left foot but four of this campaign’s strikes have been with his left, suggesting that perhaps he’s been working on it, as you’d expect any good professional to do. Even so, 45 of his goals have come from the right peg.
Interestingly, he’s only scored three penalties and has never scored from a free-kick, so he’s far from the dead-ball specialist looking to boost his totals. If you’re looking for the complete striker, he’s pretty much it.
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Three great moments
Starts the move and finishes it with a burst of speed…
A huge 8’6” jump. Well, he doesn’t jump eight feet into the air, that’d be weird, but you get my meaning…
Good on the ball, fast, hard to knock off the ball and a great header of the ball. That’ll be £100million, please…
His contract runs until 2025 in Italy but according to newspaper reports – who are probably just drumming up a story from half a grain of truth – it’s a race between Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea to sign Vic in the summer, with all three apparently being given ‘a green light’ by various people in and around the player and the club. Where do they get these green lights from? All of which suggests nobody has a clue. However the price appears to be around £110million, but which club would be his best fit?
We know Todd Boehly is financially incontinent and will pay almost any amount for anyone and amortise it over a 10-year contract. And the player’s hero was Didier Drogba. And they desperately need goals, but they can’t offer Champions League football, which if he stays at Napoli is a certainty. Arsenal has plenty of strikers and as Gabriel Jesus is back from injury, it doesn’t really make any sense to add another big-money centre-forward to the squad.
Manchester United could sell Antony Martial and Mason Greenwood while cutting loose The Big Wout (though I bet they don’t return the Dutchman to sender) to accommodate him. He’d add pace into the side so looks a better bet. Outside contenders for his signature are Spurs or Newcastle if either finishes in the top four. He’d fit in well at Brighton but they just can’t pay that sort of money for a player. Liverpool have bought lots of new strikers in the last year.
There’s almost no doubt he’ll be playing his football in the Premier League next season and he’ll probably substantially increase his £100,000-per-week wages.