The Nigerian football news scene is abuzz with the reports of Odion Ighalo being cast aside to accommodate Lionel Messi at Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal.
Both men have come face to face on the international scene when Ighalo was an undisputed choice for the Nigeria Super Eagles. The 2022 FIFA World Cup winner has beaten the AFCON 2023 hopeful more times and is set to hand him another loss in his career.
This time, Ighalo could be kicked out of his club, Al Hilal, after a year of solid performances because of their ambition to bring Messi into their squad.
Lionel Messi has been linked to Al-Hilal and a potential deal could see Odion Ighalo leave the club pic.twitter.com/OOLL27bIsn
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) May 6, 2023
Top scorer Ighalo pales in comparison to multiple Ballon d'Or winner
Veteran forward, Odion Ighalo, has had a storied career. He has played in Spain, England, Norway, Italy and China. He is currently one of the best players in the Saudi Pro League, having moved there in 2021 following a brief but impressive loan spell with Manchester United.
Incredible performances with Al Shabab in his first season in the league saw him earn a bigger move to Al Hilal in 2022, where he has continued his excellent record. He is currently second on the top scorers league with 18 goals and is being touted as a potential inclusion in the next AFCON qualifiers 2023 squad of the Super Eagles.
Heartbreak for Odion Ighalo as Al Hilal lost the AFC Champions League final to Urawa Reds 2-1 on aggregate.
Ighalo finished the competition as the top goal scorer with 5 goals pic.twitter.com/5YZOMKDJwr
— Sports Radio Brila FM (@Brilafm889) May 6, 2023
Everything is going well for the former Premier League striker but it could be a short-lived period of bliss with Lionel Messi looming. Reports claim that Messi has accepted a move to join Al Hilal in the summer following the expiration of his contract at Paris Saint-Germain.
🚨 Leo Messi has given his AGREEMENT to Al-Hilal! 💣
The Argentine is expected to be joined at the Saudi Arabian club by Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. 🇸🇦
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) May 8, 2023
The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner is linked to a number of clubs including Ighalo's Al Hilal, who are looking to recreate the rivalry that Europe enjoyed when Cristiano Ronaldo went toe to toe with the former Barcelona man in LaLiga.
Ighalo is set to be the casualty of this possible transfer. Being their most prized asset, they are looking to move him on to accommodate Messi.
Ighalo to be moved on in the summer
Ighalo's contract at Al Hilal expires in the summer. Prior to Lionel Messi's availability, it was reported that they were exploring ways to extend his contract although they had not initiated any talks.
The transfer news mill now puts his future in doubt with the Riyadh-based team. Ighalo previously expressed his desire to be the best striker that the Saudi Pro League has seen. He made these comments after scoring a brace in April for the Blue Wave.
“I’m happy, the fans are happy, it’s a derby game, we know it’s going to be difficult,” he said after the game, which was a derby tie against Ronaldo's Al Nassr. “Inshallah, hopefully, I am working towards that [being the best striker in the league] but the most important thing is to end the season well.”
Following Ighalo's stellar performance for Al Hilal this season, he aims to become the finest striker in the Saudi Pro League 💪💪
📽️: Instagram/9eagle pic.twitter.com/u9mk3wZEHY
— Soccernet.ng (@soccernet_ng) April 19, 2023
Messi, however, could remain in Europe as a return to Barcelona is on the cards. The Argentine forward is biased towards the Catalan club and could accept a proposal that will see him play at least a farewell season with the club.
This gives Ighalo hope achieving his goal to be Saudi Pro League's best striker.
This article was most recently revised and updated 10 months ago