I wrote last week that the priority for West Ham in this transfer window is to only sign players who would add to the quality of the team and that it was quality we should be searching out rather than signing a whole host of average players like we did last year. Well we got off to a good start with the signing of Pablo Zabaleta, and if reports are to be believed we head the race to sign Kelechi Iheanacho, the Manchester City striker.
Iheanacho is only 20 years old, but looks to be a real star in the making. He’s made 46 appearances, scoring 12 goals, but most of those are substitute appearances. He’s also scored five goals in eight senior appearances for Nigeria. It’s worth looking at his Manchester City career in its totality. This is from Wikipedia…
In July 2015, Iheanacho was included in City’s pre-season tour team in Australia. On the tour, he set up the first goal for Raheem Sterling and scored the second goal in the win against Roma in the 2015 International Champions Cup. He also set up Sterling for the fourth goal in City’s 8–1 victory against the Vietnam national team. In City’s last pre-season game, against VfB Stuttgart, he came on as a substitute, scoring late on in a 4–2 defeat. Due to his impressive pre-season, Iheanacho was promoted to the Manchester City senior squad. On 10 August 2015, Iheanacho was included in a first-team matchday squad for the first time in a competitive fixture, however he remained an unused substitute in their 3–0 win at West Bromwich Albion in their first game of the Premier League season. Nineteen days later, he made his competitive debut, replacing Raheem Sterling for the final minute of a 2–0 win against Watford at the City of Manchester Stadium. He scored his first competitive goal on 12 September, replacing Wilfried Bony in the final minute in a match away to Crystal Palace and scoring the only goal of the game.
Iheanacho scored his first career hat-trick on 30 January 2016 against Aston Villa in the fourth round of the FA Cup, also setting up City’s fourth goal, scored by Raheem Sterling.The following month, he was put in City’s UEFA Champions League squad at the expense of the injured Samir Nasri. During February, Iheanacho scored against Tottenham Hostpur in a 2–1 home defeat for City.
Iheanacho’s next goals came on 23 April 2016, where he scored twice against Stoke City in a 4–0 victory. He followed this up with a Champions League semi-final substitute appearance on 26 April 2016. Five days later, on 1 May 2016, he scored two again, albeit in a 4–2 defeat at the hands of Southampton.
Iheanacho ended the 2015–16 season with eight Premier League goals and had the best goals-per-minute ratio of any player averaging, a goal every 93.9 minutes. In all competitions he finished with a record of 14 goals and 5 assists from 35 appearances, although he only started 11 of these games. His goals total also meant he ended the season as City’s third-highest scorer.
On 10 September 2016, Iheanacho started in the Manchester Derby. He recorded an assist and his first goal of the season in the 2–1 win. Five days later, Iheanacho came off the bench to score the final goal in City’s 4–0 home win in the Champions League, against Borussia Mönchengladbach. This was his first European goal for Manchester City. Three days after the 4–0 win, Kelechi scored the second goal, also assisting the third, in City’s game against AFC Bournemouth. That goal took his tally in the Premier League to 10, allowing him to join an exclusive list of players to have scored 10 Premier League goals before the age of 20. This list includes players such as Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Nicolas Anelka, Michael Owen and Romelu Lukaku. In October 2016, Iheanacho was nominated for the FIFA Golden Boy award, which was eventually won by Bayern Munich’s midfielder Renato Sanches.
Iheanacho’s next goal would come in the Champions League, against Celtic, in a 1–1 home draw on 6 December 2016.
Iheanacho has represented Nigeria at youth levels from under-13 upwards. His first experience of a major international tournament was the 2013 African U-17 Championship in Morocco. For Iheanacho, the highlight was a hat-trick in a win against Botswana. He dedicated his goals to his mother, who died two months before the tournament. Nigeria reached the final of the competition, where they were defeated on penalties by the Ivory Coast.
Iheanacho played a significant role in the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup, where he won the Golden Ball award for player of the tournament. Nigeria won the competition, in which Iheanacho scored six times, including once in the final, and provided seven assists. In the run-up to the 2014 African Nations Championship, Iheanacho trained with the senior Nigeria squad but was released from the squad in order to travel to England to sign with Manchester City. He was part of the Nigeria squad for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, and featured in two matches.
He was selected by Nigeria for their 35-man provisional squad for the 2016 Summer Olympics, but failed to make the final 18. Iheanacho made his senior debut as a substitute in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Swaziland in which Nigeria drew 0–0. His first start for the senior team was on 25 March 2016, a 1–1 draw with Egypt in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match.
Kelechi Iheanacho was selected by Nigeria in friendly games against Mali and Luxembourg in May 2016. He scored in the two games providing an assist against Luxembourg. His performance in the friendly matches inspired further confidence within football circles in the nation and was invited to make his competitive debut against Egypt in an African cup of nations qualifying series where he provided an assist for Oghenekaro Etebo in the home game. Despite the change made in the coaching personnel in August this year, he distinguished himself again as one of the most important players in the team when he scored two super goals in the two matches against Tanzania in Uyo and Zambia in Ndola.
Well I don’t know about you, but that’s got me salivating. £24 million seems a reasonably fair price given his potential, but the stumbling block could be a buyback clause.