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FEATURE | Victor Osimhen – the vivacious Nigerian hoping to make Lille fans forget all about Nicolas Pépé

“This is ten percent luck,” begins the hook of the famous Fort Minor song titled “Remember The Name”. The beat to that song has been used as the soundtrack for many YouTube football compilations, especially when they concern youngsters with potential. The hook, however, might just be the soundtrack to the journey and career of one of French football’s newest imports.

1998 was a great year for Nigerian football, Victor James Osimhen was born. Born just nine days after Kylian Mbappé, on the 29th of December two decades ago, their stories have certainly gone in different directions since that time. While Kylian – the pride of French football – has already become a global superstar, Osimhen is still relatively unknown worldwide and hoping to take his chance to show what he is capable of in a league ruled by Kylian last season.

Ligue 1 has already gotten a glimpse of what Osimhen is capable of after his two-goal debut for Lille against Nantes during the opening weekend. Four shots, two on target, two goals. Signed, Osimhen. The performance was one that many who have followed the career of the 20-year old would not have been surprised by.

A goal from a long ball? Classic Osimhen. One somewhat poor touch and a sudden shot into the roof of the net? Classic Osimhen. Minimal involvement in the rest of the game? Classic Osimhen. In Galtier’s system, he would not need much more than that to deliver the goods.

Twenty percent skill…

Osimhen’s best attributes are the range of finishes in his arsenal, his intelligent movement and his directness, exemplified by his penchant for shooting on sight. He is not often deterred by anything before he takes a shot; not an approaching goalkeeper, not a defender putting him under pressure and denying him space, not a bad touch, not even the direction or strength of the wind. In that regard, he is made in the image and likeness of late Nigerian legend, Rashidi Yekini. However, while Yekini was a bulldozer, Osimhen is still something like a lawnmower – more about finesse than presence.

Far from the finished article, he still has glaring weaknesses in his game. Despite being 1.85m tall, he often gets bullied in the air and still has not learnt how to really use his strength. So far, in his two games for Lille, he has won only 7 of his 21 aerial duels.

Also, his touch is not always great, although he often makes up for it with an attempt on goal somehow. His long legs bail him out, albeit clumsily, whenever he is able to react quickly to pounce on the ball going away from him. Those legs are also the reason why he is deceptively quick; he looks slow but covers a lot of ground with every stride – a bit like ex-Guingamp player, Marcus Thuram.

Fifteen percent concentrated power of will…

Victor burst onto the scene to become one of the most sought after youngsters in world football when he smashed the record for most goals at an U-17 World Cup tournament, previously held by France’s once-highly-rated Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Ivory Coast’s Souleymane Coulibaly. His 10-goal-2-assist performance at the 2015 tournament earned him the Golden Boot and Silver Ball. With interest high following the tournament, he chose to join Wolfsburg where he felt he could continue his development with enough game time. Unfortunately, the move did not work out for him as he failed to receive adequate minutes and did not score a single goal.

Five percent pleasure…

In Belgium, he found redemption with Charleroi last season, scoring 20 goals in 36 appearances. He was then named club’s outstanding player of the campaign. His performances caught the eye of Lille who eventually landed him this summer.

Fifty percent pain…

He did not grow up in the best of circumstances. Actually, that sentence does not even do his story justice. He grew up with five older siblings and had to go into the streets of Lagos, Nigeria to help support his family at an early age. Football was his way out and he put all his eggs into that basket, having learnt to play football while constantly watching his older brother and copying what he saw. His talent was soon discovered and he got into the Ultimate Strikers Academy in Nigeria. From there, his career took off and he eventually made it into the Nigerian team that went to the U-17 World Cup in 2015. He has not looked back since then.

Osimhen’s journey has been one of resilience, a never-say-die-attitude that could see him become a fan favourite in no time. With the best young player in world football doing his thing over in Paris, there is no better way to measure Osimhen’s growth as a footballer than seeing him compete with the adored “KyKy”. Lille fans will be hoping that he gives them “a hundred percent reason to remember the name”.

A.C.

 

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