By Clement Nwankpa Jr
There is no time to ‘beat about the bush’. The once-acclaimed next golden boy of Nigerian football, Kelechi Iheanacho needs help as soon as possible.
A season that promised so much is becoming one in which the forward’s stock is plummeting the most.
When he was banging in the goals during pre-season, it seemed it was going to be the season he was finally going to realise his much vaunted potentials but it has not panned out as planned.
He has left Leicester City largely dependent on Jamie Vardy for goals. When Vardy isn’t scoring, the club is in trouble.
On assuming office, current manager Brendan Rodgers bemoaned the over-reliance on Vardy and has been linked with a move for Glasgow Rangers’s Alfredo Morelos in the summer.
This may signal the end of Iheanacho’s stint at the club. When he leaves, he would be rightly classified a flop at the club.
It is so appalling that a boy once termed the next-big-thing after bagging the Most Valuable Player award at the U-17 World Cup in 2013 has fallen this low.
He was even more productive in his earlier years at Manchester City. He didn’t always get to start games but had a high scoring rate compared to the minutes he spent on the pitch.
The Citizens needed to send him out to get more playing time and sold him to Leicester but shrewdly inserted a £40m buy-back clause into the deal. He was expected to hit it off at the Foxes and City didn’t want to be beaten to his signature.
But he is getting less involved at the club. From Claude Puel to Rodgers this season, none seems to repose much confidence in him.
He has become a perpetual bench warmer. He has not started in the last nine matches. His last start being against Newport in the FA Cup on January 6.
In fact, he has not started an EPL game this year. The last time he started in the EPL was against Fulham on December 5.
His usefulness in the team appears to be dropping consistently. He has started six matches in all competitions this season and five were last year.
From the new year, he became a regular feature on the bench. And the minutes he gets from the bench kept dropping as well. From 15 minutes, he is now deemed worthy of the last five minutes in games.
The coaches shouldn’t be blamed. He got more playing time earlier in the season but faltered all the way. His only EPL goal came against Huddersfield on September 22.
Failing to deliver, the coaches lost confidence in him. With less playing time to improve, his form has dipped considerably.
It was only fitting that for the first time since Gernot Rohr became Nigeria head coach, Iheanacho was dropped from the list of invited players.
The rate of his slide is alarming and if nothing is done sooner than later, such a hugely talented player may be heading into extinction.