The talented No. 10 was phenomenal at the 2013 U-17 World Cup hosted by United Arab Emirates. He started all seven games, scoring six goals and assisting seven goals. Iheanacho was named the tournament’s best player and he won the silver boot.
Coming into the tournament, Udinese bound forward Isaac Success was the most talked about player on Manu Garba’s roster. But that changed after Nigeria’s first game of the tournament. Iheanacho stole the show in a 6-1 thumping of Mexico. The Taye Academy product performed his trademark celebration four times against the North Americans.
Over the years, Africa has blessed football with some of its best defensive midfielders–Yaya Toure, John Mikel Obi, Michael Essien, Alex Song, Ogenyi Onazi‒however, since Jay Jay Okocha retired, it has struggled to produce a world class attacking midfielder. This is why there is a lot of pressure on Iheanacho to succeed in Europe.
But can he succeed in Europe?
The inexperienced trailblazer shares some specific attributes with the best midfielders in the world. Despite not being as defensive-minded as Yaya Toure is, Iheanacho can use his power to win the ball from an opponent and he when he’s running at full speed, it’s very difficult to take the ball off him.
Even though he plays behind the center forward, Iheanacho often drops deep into midfield to collect the ball and orchestrate plays. His passing range is hallucinatory. Whether it’s a long pass or short pass, the 17-year-old has no problem whatsoever delivering the perfect pass.
His pinpoint passing accuracy was on display in the quarterfinal match against Uruguay. In a 2-0 Nigeria victory, Iheanacho set up Taiwo Awoniyi twice. The first goal came in the 18 minute when the No. 10 picked up the ball 40 yards from goal and played a through ball to Awoniyi, who finished with a right-footed shot. Late in the second half, the Manchester City target received a pass, drove into the box and slipped a pass to Awoniyi who passed it into an empty net.
Just like most talented players, Iheanacho isn’t limited to one position. The Nigerian starlet can play on the left wing or as a center forward. Because of his eerie bust of speed and his intricate dribbling, the left-footed attacker is at home on the left wing.
If he is played as a forward, Iheanacho can easily adapt. The 6’1” playmaker would be a handful for center backs. He’ll be able to utilize his superior footwork, speed, and ethereal first touch to create goal scoring opportunities.
According to Goal.com, Iheanacho has signed a pre-contract with Manchester City. If he continues to develop, the Nigerian has the potential to become a world-class attacking midfielder.