AFCON top scorer Ighalo retires from international duty

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Nigerian forward and Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Egypt 2019 top scorer Odion Jude Ighalo has followed his captain John Obi Mikel in announcing his retirement from international football, shortly after the conclusion of the tournament in Cairo.

Ighalo posted his goodbyes on his official instagram page on Friday night, expressing his delight at his five-year Super Eagles career.

"This is one of the most difficult career decisions I have had to take. It’s been an amazing 5 years journey, but after due consultation and extensive discussion with my family I have decided it’s time for me to retire from the National team. It’s has been an eventful and most memorable opportunity to serve my country with pride, passion and to contribute my quota to the development of our football," Ighalo stated.

Playing in his first Cup of Nations, Ighalo has been the epicenter for Nigeria’s attack line and his importance has been impeccable. He stepped off the bench to score in Nigeria’s 1-0 win over Burundi in the group stages before scoring twice in their dramatic 3-2 win over Cameroon in the round of 16.

He scored in their 2-1 defeat to Algeria in the semi-finals, hitting an equalizer from the penalty spot.

His importance to the team didn't stop there as he went on to score the lone goal that saw them beat Tunisia 1-0 and clinch the third place trophy to crown their return to the Cup of Nations after a six year absence.

Ighalo currently plies his trade in the Chinese Super League with Shanghai Greenland Shenhua and has been a man on form, scoring nine goals so far in seven appearances. He moved to Shenhua at the beginning of the year after two seasons with Changchung Yatai following their relegation to second-tier.

Even in their relegation, Ighalo was in scintillating form and in 2017 scored an impressive 15 goals in 27 games. Last season, he improved his tally, hitting 21 goals in 28 games to finish second in the top scorers’ list.

Ighalo moved to China for a fee of around £20 million in January 2017, from English Premier League side Watford, where he carved a partnership with club captain Troy Deeney.

He had amazing stats in Watford, and made history by becoming the first Watford player to score in 6 straight top flight games and was also the joint most assist to goalscorer combination (7) in the EPL in 2015/16.

He made a name for himself at Watford after scoring 15 goals upon their return to the Premier League in 2015, and most famously scored 30 goals during the 2015 calendar year. It was the highest of any player in England’s four professional tiers.

Ighalo grew up in a humble family background growing up in an area called Ajegunle in the outskirts of Nigeria’s biggest city Lags where is football journey began. He started his journey at the Osun Football Club before moving to Julius Berger.

He made his first professional move abroad in 2007 when he joined Norwegian club Lyn 1896 after two seasons, he was scouted by Italian side Udinese and joined them in 2008 where he spent six years until 2014.

He however spent most of his time on loan at Spanish side Granada before he went out to another stint with Watford in 2014. After scoring three goals in eight games and being impressed by his potential, The Hornets gave him a permanent deal and he repaid them in kind, scoring 33 goals in 82 appearances before heading to China.

Off the field, Ighalo is known for his charity deeds back home in Nigeria and only recently opened the Ighalo Orphanage home and he is also known for supporting widows and orphans across Nigeria.

"Life was tough growing up in Ajegunle and I vowed that if I eventually had a breakthrough, I'll give back to the society that made me," Ighalo said as he opened the home back in 2017.