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Osimhen: Lagos ‘slum boy’ with over N50 billion price tag

Man Utd, Real Madrid, PSG, Chelsea, Arsenal linked with the goal-machine On December 29, 1998, an ‘unheralded’ star was born in Olusosun area of Lagos…

Man Utd, Real Madrid, PSG, Chelsea, Arsenal linked with the goal-machine

On December 29, 1998, an ‘unheralded’ star was born in Olusosun area of Lagos that is famous for its huge volume of dumpsite.

The young star born to the family of Pa Osimhen from Edo State who had come to Lagos in search of greener pastures is the last of six children and his name is Victor James Osimhen.

While growing up as a skinny little lad, Osimhen lost his mother and while adjusting to the ever-increasing reality of poverty in the Olusosun landfill slum in Lagos, his father lost his job and poverty really visited the home.

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At this point, survival – by any means necessary – was the motto, and hawking on the streets of Lagos with his elder ones was one of the ways to survive.

After hawking, just like every young boy, playing street football was the next hobby and Osimhen learned how to play football by watching his elder brother.

“I was born and brought up in Lagos. I grew up in a place called Olusosun, an area in Lagos State.

“My humble beginning was really tough for me. I lost my mom when I was a very young boy and three months later, my dad lost his job and things were really hard for me and my elder sisters and brother.

“I had to sell water in the streets of Lagos State to survive, me and my elders. It was really tough and also where I came from it is a place where nothing is promised there. No one will tell you they believe in you and I had to do all this by myself because football is the only hope for me and my family to survive to live the better life we are living now,” he said.

He found solace in football which eventually took up an increasing amount of his time. He began playing for Peric FC, a community-based club that shared a field with a local elementary school. His competitive and combative nature was on full display there.

This led him to join Ultimate Strikers Academy who had taken notice of his performances and from there, young Osimhen abandoned education much to the chagrin of the entire family and chose to establish a route in professional football at whatever cost.

It is often said fortune favours the brave, and so when Nigeria began to put together a squad for the 2015 Under-17 World Cup in Chile, Osimhen attended the open screenings in the nation’s capital Abuja. He had embarked on a nine-hour inter-state road trip, for the first time in his life to a screening he wasn’t invited for.

With a lot of players to screen, the erstwhile coach of the U-17 national team, Emmanuel Amuneke, had to group the players into teams for 30-minute appraisal matches.

Amuneke had found a diamond in the rough, and he set out right once to polish the young striker, despite the fact that it was a gamble with few certainties and it paid off eventually.

After scraping qualification for the World Cup by finishing fourth in CAF qualifying, “we knew we had to work on our players in terms of our ability to take chances.

“We knew we had good players, but there were other factors that we had to bring on board, from the technical point of view to the tactical aspect of the game, even from the psychological aspect of the game. These players had mostly been picked from academies, and had not been involved in any kind of league structure.

“We looked at Victor as a striker and how we could improve his positioning, his running, his realisation that there are times you only need to touch the ball once, his decision-making in pressing situations. We had to work on all that, and thankfully he was able to adapt and demonstrate at the World Cup the quality in him,” Amuneke said then.

After his exploits at the 2015 U-17 FIFA World Cup, Osimhen signed his first professional contract with Bundesliga side Wolfsburg after impressing as the Golden Eaglets powered to victory in Chile.

Osimhen scored ten goals in seven games and won the tournament’s Golden Boot and Silver Ball. His finishing excellence and variety were a genuine standout.

Yet the then-teenager wasn’t content with just fulfilling a childhood dream; he also wanted to be a successful footballer. So much so that when he was not given enough playing time at Wolfsburg, he arranged for a loan move to Royal Charleroi.

He made his first European impression with the Belgian club, scoring 24 goals (20 goals, four assists) in 36 games.

Lille swiftly swooped in and snatched him up, bringing him to France, where his outstanding performances convinced many that he was the real deal.

The lanky forward is fulfilling his goal in the Italian top flight after years of work and determination after he joined Napoli in 2020 in a deal worth €50 million (£45m/$59m) to become Africa’s most expensive player of all time.

With his exploits in Napoli, Osimhen is no doubt one of the most sought after strikers in world football at the moment. Interestingly, Napoli have set a staggering €100 million price tag on him for any club that wants his services.

President of the Serie A outfit Aurelio de Laurentiis is reportedly prepared to let the forward leave, but only for the set price. It was gathered that the 24-year-old will not leave the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium for anything less than the staggering figure.

The 24-year-old has scored 25 goals in 29 games in Italy this season, helping Napoli close to their first Serie A title in 33 years and is of interest to Manchester United manager, Erik ten Hag and he is being tracked by a number of European clubs including Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

The Nigerian is on course to lift the Scudetto in Naples with his club a staggering 19 points clear at the summit with 11 matches to go. However, it seems Napoli are resigned to the fact that their star striker will leave Italy this summer.

Recently, his Nigerian team mate, Alex Iwobi who plays for Everton revealed that Osimhen has asked him about the Premier League which indicates his desire to play in the league at some point.

Transfer news also suggests that Arsenal and Newcastle are also said to be keeping a close eye on the 24-year-old frontman who has admitted that the opportunity to turn out in the English top-flight football at some stage in the future would be a dream come true for him.

“I’m working so hard to make sure that I achieve my dream of playing in the Premier League some day but, like I said, it’s a process and I just want to keep on this momentum and continue to do well,” he told The Athletic.

Interestingly, Osimhen the rave of the moment is being compared in some quarters to the ‘super human’ Erling Haaland of Manchester City. Their rate of goal scoring is indeed astonishing.

And even as the Super Eagles are faltering in their performances, the dare-devil striker is a sure candidate for the next African Footballer of the Year Award. It will be recalled that the last time a Nigerian brought home the prestigious title was in 1999 when Kanu Nwankwo was crowned the King of African football. Osimhen is looking like the man who will break the 24-year jinx.

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