Victor Osimhen: Can Lille Hold on to their Jewel?

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Victor Osimhen

After surpassing expectations, scoring eight goals and two assists in 11 appearances for Lille OSC so far, it came as a little surprise that the Premier League duo of Newcastle and Manchester United are scrambling for Victor Osimhen’s signature. Catalan giants, Barcelona, are not left out in the quest as they are still in search of Luis Suarez’s replacement. The big question, however, remains how well can the French side ward off these clubs from the Nigerian bride?

With Newcastle having just managed to score five goals in nine matches, it did not come as a surprise to anybody that the Magpies are in the market for a new striker and have set their sights on acquiring the services of Nigerian international, Victor Osimhen, who is currently on the books of Lille OSC of France.

The Super Eagles striker is the darling of several European clubs at the moment as the Chronicles have confirmed that Newcastle United scouts are keeping tabs on the young but exciting Lille star.

Earlier, news broke out that Barcelona had jumped ahead of the queue of clubs seeking to snap Osimhen away from Lille as the Catalonia giants begin to prepare for post-Suarez.

Osimhen enjoyed a breakthrough season last term at Sporting Charleroi where he banged in 20 goals in just his first season in Belgium.

The 20-year-old was quickly snapped up by Lille in the summer as a replacement for Portugal’s Leao who left for AC Milan and Nicolas Pepe who departed for Arsenal in a £72m deal.

Osimhen only joined Lille from Belgian outfit Charleroi for £10.8 million.

It is his exploits in France, and lately, in the UEFA Champions League, that has compelled Newcastle’s head of recruitment Steve Nickson and his team to include Osimhen in their compiled list of striking options for Newcastle manager, Steve Bruce in the next couple of windows.

Bruce will have money available to spend in January and he may look to do a deal for the Nigerian if possible.

Bruce said: “We’ll start planning in the next couple of weeks, but January is always a difficult window. We’ll see what’s out there.”

Barcelona have also been linked with a move for the 20-year- old.

“Barcelona and Manchester United, in particular, follow him regularly,” a report in the French newspaper, La Voix du Nord, noted.

The striker recently won the Ligue 1 Player of the Month Award for September, beating Monaco’s Islam Slimani and Nantes defender Nicolas Pallois.

Earlier, Lille sporting director Luis Campos likened Osimhen to a ‘cat’ after revealing that the player had been on his radar for the last four years.

Campos also admitted that Les Dogues will be under severe assault when the transfer window reopens in January should their in-form striker continue his scoring form for the club.

“When you are a club like Lille, it is difficult to keep hold of a striker who scores goals,” Campos told RMC.

“We’ll be under assault if he continues like this.

“It is normal, in the way football currently is, all the players who have arrived at Lille in this project, the idea is to continue to help them to improve, for them to help the club and the team to improve in return.”

Lille fans were left in anguish when their jewel attacker-Nicolas Pepe left the French club to join Premier League side, Arsenal and the Ligue 1 side signed Osimhen as his replacement. The fans felt the Nigerian was not the kind of player that could fill their last season 22 goals hero’s shoes but Osimhen has proved them wrong.

Osimhen announced his arrival in Ligue 1 with a brace for Lille against Nantes despite having trained for just five days with his new mates. The 20-year-old Super Eagles forward showed his control and speed when he outran Molla Wague and placed his shot past Alban Lafont in goal for Nantes before lashing a shot from the tightest of angles with 10 minutes left on the clock to score the winner.

Osimhen had been expected to struggle to fill the shoes of Pepe this season but the new arrival has shown no sign of any pressure is now being hailed a potential new star in French football.

He has been all smiles since. “I feel very good, I have been waiting a long time since I arrived here and I felt it was important to make a successful debut. Ligue 1 is a big jump up for me, I think it’s one of the best leagues in the world,” he said.

Osimhen was linked with several European clubs before Lille paid 12 million Euros to Sporting Chaeleroi to move the Nigerian to France for a new transfer record by the Danish-based club, breaking the six million Euros fee they were paid by Pyramids of Egypt to sign Cristian Benavente.

Inter Milan once contacted Osimhen’s representatives about a possible deal as a replacement  for former captain Mauro Icardi who was involved in a row with the club after he was stripped off the captain armband and his relationship with the management have hit rock bottom levels.

The deal however encountered some complications as Charleroi are willing to use every means available to trigger the clause of buying him permanently before selling him for a hefty profit and also a percentage of his future sale.

Wolfsburg on the other hand wanted the striker back after his loan spell but it is believed they want to trade him off as their player to recoup some of their investment in the player they signed in 2015 following his exploits at the U-17 World Youth Championship.

His impressive form earned him a recall to the Super Eagles squad for 2019 Nations Cup qualifier against South Africa and he also started in 0-0 friendly draw against Uganda in Asaba.

Osimhen was in Super Eagles’ squad that played 2-2 against Ukraine in a friendly game at the Dnipro Arena on September 10, and he scored Nigeria’s second goal and his first for the senior national team from the penalty spot after Joe Aribo scored the opener, before the host fought back to a 2-2 draw.

The 20-year old was also a torn in the flesh of Brazil defence in the Selecao’s international friendly with Super Eagles in Singapore.

Ahead of the match, Brazil’s Paris Saint Germain defender, Marquinhos had identified Osimhen as Nigeria’s most dangerous player.

“Nigeria has very physical and skillful players. Osimhen has done well at Lille. Virtually unknown before his transfer but now everyone knows him that shows he can be very dangerous. We have to put an eye on him,” Marquinhos had warned his teammates.

In 2016, Osimhen turned down a move to Arsenal, after Arsene Wenger had revealed he was close to bringing him to the Emirates, but his family and representatives chose the German club ahead of the Gunners.

“It’s true that a big team like Arsenal wanted me and I feel honoured to be invited over. But personally I feel Wolfsburg is a ladder for me to reach my professional goals,” Osimhen had told BBC Sport.

“Yes Arsenal is a good team for young players but Wolfsburg is the best club for me. This is the best place for me to learn and develop because my heart is here with Wolfsburg. The club’s plan for my career is very encouraging and I believe with God on my side I can grow to become one of the best players in the world,” he had revealed then.