Following his reported African record transfer deal from OSC Lille to SC Napoli, Nigeria forward Victor Osimhen would be one of the stars to watch as the 2020/21 Serie A kicks off this weekend in Italy.
In July, the 21-year-old and 2015 CAF Youth Player of the Year, made the headlines far and near when The Partenopei (as Napoli are nicknamed in Italy) announced his arrival from the French Ligue 1 side in a mega move; the biggest involving an African footballer.
Incidentally, Osimhen made his international breakthrough in 2015 at the U-17 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) held in Niger, where he emerged as top scorer with four goals en route to the FIFA U-17 World Cup, Chile 2015.
In Chile, Osimhen set a new scoring record at the global cadet championship, as his 10 goals in seven matches broke the long-standing record of nine goals in a single tournament previously held jointly by Frenchman Florent Sinama Pongolle and Ivorian Souleymane Coulibaly.
In addition to guiding Nigeria to the title, he was deservedly rewarded with the Golden Boot and the Silver Ball as the second-Best Player of the tournament behind compatriot Kelechi Nwakali. He was later in the same year crowned as CAF Youth Player of the Year 2015.
The youngster from Lagos-based Ultimate Strikers Academy was immediately snapped up by German Bundesliga side Wolfsburg, where he had difficult start of his European career before being sent on loan in 2018 to Charleroi in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League.
Osimhen blossomed in Belgium, scoring a remarkable 20 goals in all competitions, including the record-breaking quickest goal in the history of the Belgian First Division A with an 8.15second opening goal against Antwerp on 26 May 2019. He was also declared the club’s player of the season.
Osimhen who earned his first international cap on 1st June 2017 in Nigeria’s friendly 3-0 win over Togo in Paris, was on Nigeria’s 23-man list to the 2019 Total AFCON in Egypt, where he featured only in the Bronze medal winning match against Tunisia.
With the 2019/2020 French Ligue 1 season being called off due to COVID-19 pandemic, Osimhen had scored an impressive 18 goals in 38 matches, and was picked as the winner of the Marc Vivien Foe award presented by Radio France International (RFI) for Africa’s Best Player in the French football championship for the 2019 /2020 season.
As he begins a new phase of his career with Napoli, Osimhen explained his expectations in an interview with CAFOnline.com.
CAFOnline.com: There were so many speculations about offers from clubs in the English Premier League (EPL). Why did you eventually sign for Napoli?
Osimhen: Many predicted I will move to the EPL, and I had a lot of interesting offers from some clubs. But Napoli was the best choice for me. It was so because of the kind of player I want to be in the future, and the kind of great career I want to have. I have no doubt that Napoli is the club I need to achieve that greater height. The relationship between me and Coach (Gennaro Gattuso) and President (Aurelio De Laurentiis) is a very interesting one, because even before I came to Napoli, I spoke with both. They convinced me even more to sign for Napoli. The relationship is going very well, and I just want to repay them on the pitch for the trust they have in me.
How ready are for the challenges of playing against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo in Serie A?
I’m really looking forward to a new career here in Serie A. Playing against the likes of Christian Ronaldo is something one can eagerly wait. While at Lille, I had the opportunity of playing against some of the best players in the world like Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and it would definitely be a whole great experience to play against Ronaldo, who is one of the greatest players on earth. So, I’m looking forward to facing him soon.
Are you under pressure to perform at Napoli being the Africa’s record signing?
There is no pressure on me since I came here rather, I just need to work and do what I loved doing. I just need to do my work on the pitch and give my all like I have always been doing and getting the goals for both my club and country. This is the most important thing for me and there is no pressure at all. I just want to do my thing in my own way.
You had an excellent pre-season scoring form. What is your goals’ target in your first Serie A season with Napoli?
I am happy for the goals I scored pre-season. I’m not the kind of players that set a number of goals I’m going to score for my team because I’m a team player; I don’t set personal target before that of the team. I just want to score as much as I can for my team, help them doing well and winning trophies. So, there is no personal targets for me; I just want to do well and get the goals for my team.
You have always said that former African Footballer of the Year Didier Drogba is your idol. How do you feel playing for a club where Argentine legend Diego Maradona is usually the reference point?
Drogba would forever be my idol and I’m so grateful to him. Choosing him as a role model has really been helpful since my growing up years. I have not met him yet and I’m really looking forward to seeing him and getting one of his signed jerseys; that would really be a dream come true for me.
Now, playing in a club that used to have Diego Maradona, who is undoubtedly one of the greatest players ever, is inspiring. Maradona is an idol here in Napoli and I have seen his pictures everywhere. He is truly the best. To be here and to play on the same pitch of Maradona is another dream came true.
How are you adjusting to the new lifestyle as well as communicating with other players in the team?
When I moved to Wolfsburg, I had to learn the German language. Since then, dealing with language stuff has been easier, either when I moved to Belgium, France or now Italy. Of course, I’m going to get an Italian language teacher soon.
Napoli is a great team with many international players like Kalidou Koulibaly, Dries Mertens and some other players who speak English. The coach (Gattuso) also speaks English which makes it easier for me. But learning Italian will be very important and I’m really looking forward to it.