The Nigeria national football team have seen many strikers come and go but not many are as iconic as Odion Ighalo.
The former Watford man has a lot of brilliant career moments and acts of charity and philanthropy that have endeared him to fans of the Super Eagles in the course of his career. He is also a social media sensation as a result of all these things.
This article is a collection of everything we know about the 2019 AFCON top scorer and it is prepared for you to know more about the man whose ‘labour’ is highly ‘favoured’.
Odion Ighalo has announced his departure from Man United 🔴— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) January 26, 2021
He lived his dream playing for the club he supported growing up in Nigeria 🇳🇬pic.twitter.com/OovCiM5vTX
Odion Ighalo profile
Odion Ighalo is a Nigerian professional football player who plays as a striker for Saudi Pro League side Al-Hila and the Nigeria national football team, the Super Eagles.
He was born on 16 June 1989 in Ajegunle, Lagos State, the town which is sometimes referred to as ‘the Nigerian favela’ because of the amount of football, entertainment and entrepreneurial talents it produces.
In 2000, he joined Prime FC (now known as Osun United FC) where he trained as an academy player until 2005. He only spent one year in their senior team before returning to Lagos to play for Julius Berger FC (now known as Bridge FC) in 2006.
It was while he played for Julius Berger (now Bridge FC) that the infamous football agent Marcelo Houseman took an interest in him and facilitated a move for Ighalo to Norwegian side Lyn 1896 in 2007.
Odion Ighalo club career
Odion Ighalo played for Lyn 1896 for one year after Marcelo Houseman’s intervention in his football career, which also saw his financial fortunes change. Being born to a petty trader and a father who provided for his family via blue-collar jobs like construction site labouring, informal security and cleaning, the move abroad was a big game-changer for the Ighalo family.
In 2010, Odion Ighalo celebrates with Granada fans after leading club back to Spanish Segunda for the first time in 22 years.— Africa story Live (@AfricaStoryLive) August 17, 2020
Ighalo further led Granada to promotion with 17 goals
Granada entrance was named after Odion Ighalo pic.twitter.com/6imidHcy2O
It was also the first time he would be separated from his elder sister (now late) and his twin, who you will read more about in the coming sections. At Lyn, he impressed enough to earn a move to Italian Serie A side Udinese where he stayed on their books for six seasons.
However, he did not get the chance to play many games with the club because he was sent on loan to other clubs in Italy (Cesena) the Spanish LaLiga (Granada) and England (Watford).
He had a good run in Spain with Granada and this is what convinced Watford, a team affiliated with Udinese, to take a chance on him, first on loan and then on a permanent transfer in 2014.
Ighalo became a cult hero at Watford and was one of the best mid-table strikers in the Premier League. The Hornets’ fans still talk about his time at the club to this day and fans on social media have classified him as one of the players who the “streets won’t forget”.
In 2017, he began his sojourn in China, where he also gained cult hero status. Changchun Yatai was his first stop and Shanghai Shenhua was his last one, which earned him a loan move to Manchester United, the club he supported as a boy on the streets of Ajegunle.
The move made Odion Ighalo the first Nigerian in history to ever put on a Manchester United jersey and line up as a player for the Red Devils in an official match.
He gave a good account of himself and of Nigerian players in the six months he spent at Old Trafford before moving to Saudi Arabia, first to play for Al Shabab and then Al-Hilal.
At the time of writing, he is closer to joining another club than he is to remain at Al Hilal. Should he leave the 2022/23 Saudi Pro League champions, he will leave as a cult hero.
As far as Nigeria Super Eagles’ players go, not many are as popular around the world as Ighalo. The man, however, has famously stated that he plays football firstly as a job to provide for his family and dependents and will go where the money is good.
He also insinuates that trophies and team achievements are secondary to him but he will work to help any team he plays for achieve their goals for each set season.
This is why he is also considered one of the best Nigerian football professionals around.
Odion Ighalo national team career
Odion Ighalo got his Nigeria national football team debut for the first time in 2015 when then-newly appointed Super Eagles interim coach Daniel Amokachi selected him for the first time.
He missed the opportunity to play his first official tournament for Nigeria when he was dropped from the final list of players who travelled to Brazil for the 2016 Olympic Games, where Nigeria bagged the bronze medal.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations so his first tournament with the team would be the 2018 FIFA World Cup which was held in Russia. Nigeria exited the 2018 World Cup in the group stages and Nigerian fans were not kind to him on that outing, with some going as far as sending his family death threats because he failed to score a goal at the World Cup.
Ighalo scored seven goals in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign, the most by any player, to help Nigeria qualify for the tournament in Egypt later that year (Victor Osimhen has matched that record in the AFCON 2023 qualifiers).
Ighalo would go on to participate in the 2019 AFCON where he would score five goals to become the tournament’s top scorer as Nigeria finished with the bronze medal. He retired from the Super Eagles after that tournament but rescinded his decision in 2021. He remains available for national team selection at the time of writing.
He is one of the Super Eagles’ top ten goalscorers of all time, with 16 goals from 37 official caps.
Odion Ighalo net worth: Earnings, house, family
Odion Ighalo earnings
According to multiple sources, Odion Ighalo is Nigeria’s highest-earning footballer. At Al-Hilal, he earned £70,000 to £90,000 a week and he earned around the same figure while at Al Shabab. In China, he earned over £10,000,000 annually and his time at Manchester United saw him take home £180,000 per week. Odion Ighalo net worth is estimated to be around $40 million.
Odion Ighalo house
Odion Ighalo has a number of palatial houses in his hometown, in Lagos and in some of the countries he has played football in. However, his most iconic one – and the one we can consider his main house – is the one in Lekki, Lagos. The mansion was opened in 2019 and it comes with its own gaming room, viewing room, fitness centre, and even a football pitch among other architectural delights. It is where he spends the most time with his friends, family and children.
Odion Ighalo personal life: Odion Ighalo wife, kids, twin sister, late sister
Odion Ighalo wife, kids
Odion Ighalo married Adesuwa Sonia in 2009 and she bore three children whose names are Samuel, Bernice, and Daniel. In 2019, however, there was trouble in paradise and both parties had a messy fallout as a result. They have since separated and Sonia has custody of his children.
However, in 2021, Sonia revealed that the former Lyn striker has two more children from different women, bringing the number of children with his blood and DNA running through their veins to five. The revelation came after it was rumoured that Ighalo and Nollywood actress Lilian Esoro were in a relationship. There is no information about the said relationship, however, as Ighalo continues to keep most of his romantic life away from social media.
Their separation continues to be messy as Sonia takes every opportunity to call out what she perceives as wrongdoing from the Al-Hilal frontman while he ignores her and only talks about his siblings, parents, work (football), philanthropy and children.
Odion Ighalo family
In the culture of the Esan people of Edo State, Nigeria, the name Odion is given to twins, regardless of gender. Odion is the name given to the first twin while Akhere is the name given to the second twin.
This proves that Odion Ighalo is a twin whose name is Akhere Ighalo. Akhere Ighalo, now known as Akhere Ighalo-Emmanuel is married and living with her husband and three children abroad.
Odion and Akhere are two of five children born to Paul and Martina Ighalo. The striker has two brothers, Austin and Moses, and had two sisters, Akhere and Mary.
Mary slumped and died at the age of 43 in 2020 when she was preparing her children for school in Canada. He and his family pay tributes to her every year as she was the first child and a second mother to the rest of the Ighalo children.
This article was most recently revised and updated 3 months ago