From failed trials to record signing: The amazing comeback story of Victor Osimhen

If in any doubt of just how quickly fortune can be turned around within a space of two years, then Victor Osimhen’s amazing comeback story should be the perfect inspiration.

The 21-year-old Nigeria international forward officially completed a big money move to Italian Serie A side Napoli from Lille on Friday.

While the size of the transfer fee isn’t exactly certain due to conflicting reports which hasn’t been helped by the refusal of neither club to state how much the deal is worth, sources on one hand have speculated €50 million (https://www.goal.com/en/news/napoli-confirm-50m-signing-of-osimhen-from-lille/13qf51an2n2rg1e07kw6i7znpf) while the French media are stating an African record transfer fee of €81.3 million (https://www.getfootballnewsfrance.com/2020/official-victor-osimhen-signs-for-napoli-for-e81-3m-including-bonuses/).

However, what is certain is that the transfer is one for the record books as either the player has just become Nigeria’s most expensive player of all-time or Africa’s record signing or probably both.

From humble beginnings on the streets of Lagos (https://twitter.com/victorosimhen9/status/1282368793382203399?s=20), Osimhen’s meteoric rise in the last five years has equally experienced some ups and downs, notably in the first few years in Europe.

After a record-setting feat with 10 goals in 2015, (the most at a FIFA U17 World Cup) Osimhen and his representatives decided at the time a move to Germany, precisely Wolfsburg was the best for his career.

However, the player failed to make his mark at the club due to a succession of injuries and then the doubts began to gradually creep in, with a few suggesting he was going to go the way of previous Nigerian’s who had shone at age-grade level but ultimately failed to make the cut at the top.

In a bid to change that negative narrative, Osimhen was determined to make his mark in Europe, but after a torrid two-year stay at Wolfsburg it was obvious he needed a fresh start elsewhere for any sort of comeback and then the test of character set in.

Arrangements were made with Belgian Jupiler pair of clubs Zulte-Waregem and Club Brugge to take the player on loan ahead of the 2018/19 season, but there was a little hurdle that had to be crossed, Osimhen needed to prove his fitness.

That little request proved to be the then 19-year-old’s undoing as he failed to make any meaningful impression at both trials, his physical condition was greatly affected due to been down at the time with malaria, hence both clubs decided against offering him a spot on the squad an outcome which took him back to square one.

His blushes were sparred towards the end of August, 2018, when modest Sporting Charleroi came to his rescue and took him on a season-long loan for the campaign in Belgium’s top-flight and then his remarkable turnaround story began.

In 36 matches across all competitions, Osimhen found the back of the net 20 times for Charleroi, won the clubs Player of the Year award and was permanently signed for a fee of €3.5 million at the conclusion of the season.

After making his senior competition debut in a third-place finish with the Super Eagles at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, Osimhen was on the move again, this time joining French Ligue 1 team Lille on a five-year deal for a transfer fee of €14 million exactly a year ago today. (https://www.goal.com/en-ng/news/victor-osimhen-lille-sign-sporting-charleroi-forward-on-five/l9b4lqr9b3mr1rvqcodk81pd4)

At Lille, Osimhen braved the odds, featured in his first-ever UEFA Champions League campaign (scoring two goals in five appearances), was voted UNFP Ligue 1 Player of the month: September, 2019 and by the time the season was prematurely ended due to the global Coronavirus outbreak, the player had registered a total of 18 goals in 38 appearances in all competitions for Les Dogues.

Those performances were good enough to earn the striker who has severally been compared to African legend Didier Drogba, the Prix Marc-Vivien Foe award for the best African international footballer in France and Lille’s Player of the Year 2020.

Now with a big money move secured in the bag at such a young age, Osimhen has gained the trust of Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis, attracted global attention and must now aim to set himself on the right path and overcome the demons which often have prevented African stars from attainting true greatness.

While Osimhen’s amazing comeback story could be one to be considered for a movie production, his journey to earning a spot on the world stage and etching his name into Napoli’s history books is just only about to begin.

The rave-of-the-moment must have inspired others with his amazing story and while his humble beginnings might serve as a motivating factor, he should equally have this at the back of his mind as he enter a new phase of his career: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”.

Benvenuti a Napoli, Victor.

 

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