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VICTOR OSIMHEN: My late dad smiling down on me now

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In his first frankest interview since his big money move to SC Napoli from OSC Lille, Super Eagles forward Victor Osimhen shares his dreams in the Italian Serie A with the Gil Azzurri and reflected about the past and what the future beholds in an exclusive conversation with Sport Editor, MORAKINYO ABODUNRIN.

All through July, the media world was bursting at the seams over Nigeria international striker, Victor Osimhen over his imminent move from French Ligue 1 side OSC Lille to Italian Serie A club SC Napoli.

It was a classic case of let’s wait and see as depicted in that song by Fireboy:  ‘One man, one city, one night. One street; one journey, one dream’

So much so that the news cascaded like a thunderbolt when the transfer deal was completed on July 31 with the 21-year-old striker striking a five-year deal reportedly in the region of €80m (about $96M USD) with personal earning  to the tune of about  €4.5m per season.

The deal  made Osimhen, the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup winner and tournament’s  to goal scorer with a record 10 goals  in seven matches,  Africa’s most expensive player ever  since  the transfer fee between Lille and Napoli eclipsed the  $94M USD  incidentally paid by Arsenal  to snap up  Ivorian Nicolas Pepe  from Lille in 2019.

“My goal is to do well and win trophies  for Napoli  and  this is the most important thing for me,” Osimhen told THE NATION  in his first major interview since joining the Gil Azzurri .

SETTLING DOWN

“I have been settling down very well here and it is important for me to continue from where I stopped at Lille.

“I am very happy to be in a great and big club like Napoli; and the fans, my teammates and the whole staffs at the club have been wonderful to me, which is important for a young player coming into a great team like Napoli.

“It is important to get loved; to get on track in other to continue to do well as a player. For the moment, I’m really very happy and of course I’m prepared for what is to come.”

As it’s often said that today is an indicator of tomorrow and the hitherto leaned –frame Osimhen with  his burgeoning physique and outlook, has already served  Napoli faithful a taste of what to expect  when he scored two hat-tricks in the club’s first two pre-season games ahead of the eagerly awaited 2020/ 2021 Italian Serie A season.

Since his breakthrough with Nigeria’s U-17 team coached by former Barcelona winger, Emmanuel Amuneke five years ago, Osimhen has been addicted to scoring goals as he fired 20 goals in all competitions for Charleroi in the 2018 Jupiler Belgian League season while on loan from Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga.

LILLE TO NAPOLI 

The following season at Lille was equally very impressive with Osimhen scoring 18 goals in 38 matches in all competitions in only his first season in the French Ligue 1 to warrant interest from all the major clubs in Europe including Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, and Liverpool amongst others.

But many watched with a measure of incredulous and disbelief when he eventually signed for Napoli amid row with his erstwhile representatives during the negotiations.

“Of course , a lot predicted I’ll move to the EPL and I also thought about going to the English Premier League myself;  I had a lot of interesting offers from some clubs in the EPL but Napoli is  the best choice for me,” Osimhen which ‘God is good’ in his local dialects in Edo State, further told The  Nation.“ I choose Napoli because of the kind of great career I want to have and because of the kind of player I want to be, and I have no doubt that Napoli is the kind of club I need to be to achieve that greater heights.“

For those closer to Osimhen, it’s is not a surprise that he has this single-minded approach and street wise enough to know what is good for himself, having learned the art of survival on the streets of Lagos  leaning to play football and eking out a living doing all kinds of menial jobs.

Yet he gave the raison d’etre behind his eventual movement to the Stadio San Paolo Stadium home of The Blues that has in its fold two enthralling personalities in Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis and coach Gennaro Gattuso.

“The relationship between me and the coach; and the President is a very interesting one,” Osimhen said with breathy purr. “Even before I came to Napoli to see things for myself, I spoke with both the coach and the President; and they both convinced me even more to sign for Napoli. The relationship is going very well and I just want to repay them on the pitch for the trust they have in me.“

TEAM PLAYER

Typically, Osimhen has been pulling his socks since joining Napoli’s pre-season camp in Castel di Sangro in August and fitness has been there for all to see with six goals in his first two matches- though against two modest sides L’Aquila and Terano.

“I just want to keep winning scoring goals for Napoli,”  noted the former striker from modest Ultimate Strikers Academy of Lagos further  even a she sets his eyes on the future. “I’m happy for the goals I’ve so far scored in the pre-season but I’m not the kind of players that set the number of goals I’m going to score for my team; I’m a team player and I don’t set my target before that of the team.

“I just want to score as much as I can for my team and help us a team to do well and win trophies which is the most important thing for me.

“This is also the goal and objective of the club also; so there is no target for me this season and I just want to do well and get the goals for my team.”

He continued: “I’m ever ready for the challenges ahead and the only thing that can stop me is when I’m sick or have a knock. I’m ready to go into any game regardless of the team we are going to play against. I will also give my best to ensure that we get the best out of the games.”

WOLFSBURG A BLESSING

As far as Osimhen is concerned, his yesterday defines today and no way can we talk about Napoli without recourse to that difficult start of European football career where he struggled for his life and survival at Wolfsburg.

He spent some two pitiable seasons at the Volkswagen Arena where he featured in just 14 matches that included just 12 Bundesliga games, two German Cup matches and one other inconsequential game during his spell with Wolfsburg.

Yet, Osimhen admitted that the Teutonic life style was as it’s often said, blessings in disguise because the German lifestyle has kept his feet on ground ever since.

“It is true I had a setback in Wolfsburg but it incidentally set my path to where I’m today,” waxed Osimhen with philosophical hue. “The difficult time at Wolfsburg was actually a blessing in disguise because learned everything and not only about football but about life in Wolfsburg; it has made me to survive around the world.

“It has taken me to where I’m today and I’m really happy for that moment with all that happened to me then at Wolfsburg.

“Of course, I kept on believing in myself and kept on working hand regardless of the failure and disappointments; this has really helped my determination to succeed and my path to where I’m today and I’m really grateful to God. I just have to build on this momentum.”

Apart from the tempest life at Wolfsburg, Osimhen would be the first to admit that he enjoyed some tranquillity in Belgium with Charleroi en route to Lille where he had serenity and shine like the brightness of the firmament to be so named the year 2020 the winner of the Marc Vivien Foe Radio France International (RFI) France 24 award as the Africa’s Best Player in the French football championship for the 2019 /2020 season.

LOVE FOR LILLE 

He said about life Lille and his expectations with the Neapolitans: “As I said before now, Lille would forever be in my heart and it would be my second home and people there are my second family.

“But Napoli is different and interesting to me because the people here are very passionate about their football and club; it’s been long that I saw something crazy like this.

“I would say the fans have made it even easier for me to sign for Napoli; they have really helped me to settle down to a new life here and the love they have shown to me has been very massive.

“The love has really made me to settle down well and there is nothing I have to do than to repay the love they have for me by working hard on the pitch; to get the goals and victories for the team.

“These are the things I’m prepared for and I’m ready to make them (Napoli fans) even happier.”

I MISS MY DAD

Who else won’t shed tears but a fatherless Osimhen?

Amid the Coronavirus lockdown in May, Osimhen’s father, Patrick, died aged 80 in Lagos and he recalled with outlandish emotion when one of his heroes kissed the world goodbye.

“The death of my father hit me hard and it is something that I cannot forget even till the end of the world,” Osimhen’s voice quivered.

“In my quiet time, I go down, relax and reminiscences about the time we spent together and look at the pictures, videos and most often, I shed tears.

“But I’m really grateful for a life well spent because I watched my father struggled to put food on the table for us and I’m really proud that I was able to repay him with good life before he died.

“I know he is proud of me wherever he is now. I’m really grateful for his life.”

Yet Osimhen said with unabashed enthusiasm that he was prouder about how well his army of fans had stood with him and his family when he was at his lowest ebb.

He stated matter-of-factly: “A very big thank to all my fans; especially when I was bereaved as a result of the death of my dad.

“The love they’ve shown me and their support since I signed for Napoli   has really been massive.

“I want to thank them and I want to thank you, for the support over the years.

“I’ll keep working hard in order not to let all of you down so that you can continue to be proud of me; I appreciate and may God bless you all.”

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