As career progressions go, Victor Osimhen’s journey has been filled with constant obstacles and emphatic responses to prove himself even further.
Right from the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup where he won the Golden Boot with a record number of goals for Emmanuel Amunike’s victorious side, the striker had heavy pressure on his young shoulders to live up to this immense goalscoring potential.
Following bouts with health issues and a lack of playing time at Wolfsburg, Osimhen was again faced with the challenge of making a name for himself at club level in Europe. However, his scoring prowess shone through on loan at Belgian side Charleroi where a healthy return of 20 goals in all competitions were enough to impress Lille.
Another goal-laden campaign in his maiden season in a top-five European league saw the French side cash in on Napoli’s club-record €70 million fee in 2020. Since then, the 24-year-old has registered 59 goals and 14 assists in 101 appearances in all competitions.
He enjoyed the best season of his career to date last term as Napoli secured their first league title since a Diego Maradona-inspired triumph in 1990.
Under Luciano Spalletti’s leadership, the Nigerian has massively improved with his technical qualities and trademark aerial prowess becoming a highlight of their historical campaign.
26 strikes in 32 games were enough to win the Capocannoniere award as the first African to finish top scorer in the Italian topflight. This generational achievement was acknowledged in his homeland as Osimhen was made a Member of the Federal Republic by outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari on 29 May 2023.
Talking about the significance of his goals, Osimhen became the highest-scoring African player ever in Serie A as well as surpassing Samuel Eto’o’s single-season record.
For all his courage and determination to keep finding the net, Osimhen’s deadly movement came in leaps and bounds last season with his manager playing a key role in that evolution.
Conditioning his explosiveness to clinical effect, Spalletti also tweaked the team’s attacking play to Osimhen’s strengths and expertly managed his fitness which had hitherto derailed his first two seasons in Naples.
The rewards were bountiful for the Partenopei who watched their team stage a relentless title charge from start to finish, led dutifully by their masked number nine.
With strikes from improbable angles and superhero-esque leaps into the air to score headers, Napoli forged the grit of champions and with each passing game, their marksman etched his name further into Neapolitan folklore.
The rest of Europe has been taking note of Osimhen’s extraordinary feats of obsessive goalscoring. That ten of his league goals came from reacting to rebounds or winning second balls particularly makes for good reading.
Osimhen is one of the most coveted players in European football due to his ability to disrupt stubborn defences and Gazzetta dello Sport understands that Liverpool have joined Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the race for his signature.
United are in the hunt for a new striker having been linked with Tottenham forward Harry Kane and Atalanta’s Rasmus Hojlund this summer. French giants PSG are also open to a big-money move after seeing Lionel Messi leave for Inter Miami with star striker Kylian Mbappe’s future still in doubt.
Meanwhile, Chelsea are crying out for a prolific centre-forward and the big-spending Londoners are thought to be seriously interested in the Nigerian after completing a massive squad clear-out to raise funds and comply with Financial Fair Play guidelines.
Nevertheless, Napoli chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis’ £150million valuation of the player alongside his tough negotiating tactics could prove too difficult to surmount.
With a Premier League move as likely as Osimhen staying at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, what should the striker do?
Kalidou Koulibaly himself left Napoli for England less than 12 months ago and the ex-Chelsea defender thinks the decision is down to a personal conviction.
“We speak once in a while and if he needs, he’ll call me,” said Koulibaly.
“Victor is an important player, among the best in the world. Gennaro Gattuso helped him, Luciano Spalletti was a turning point for him and now he needs nobody. He must feel free to choose without listening to anyone else. That’s the only way not to have regrets.
Amidst intense speculation over which club would be making a bid for Osimhen, it is easy to forget the striker’s impact both locally and internationally last term.
Each run, shot, header, goal and passionate goal celebration created an incredible bond with Napoli fans whose acknowledgement of their hero in songs and the display of his popular merchandise quickly went viral.
These gestures go a long way in highlighting football as a uniting factor in a country that has a long history of racist incidents in football stadia. On the other hand, underprivileged children all over Africa now have a role model to inspire the next generation.
A transfer from Napoli will undoubtedly break new grounds for Osimhen the player, but staying for one more year to build on last season’s success just might be the most impactful decision ever made by Osimhen the person.
Maradona is eternally loved in the city of Naples and Osimhen will no doubt strengthen his own cult hero status should he decide to remain in situ.