Odion Ighalo

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Odion Jude Ighalo (born 16 June 1989) is a Nigerian professional footballer who plays as a striker for Chinese club Changchun Yatai and the Nigerian national team.

After starting his career at Prime and Julius Berger, he moved to Norway's Lyn in 2007. A year later he was signed by Udinese, spending most of his tenure loaned out, notably at Granada, before signing for Watford in 2014. He also competed professionally in China, with Changchun Yatai.

Ighalo made his debut for Nigeria in 2015. He represented the nation at the 2018 World Cup.

Club career

Early years / Lyn

Born in Lagos and raised in Edo,Ighalo played in his country with Prime and Julius Berger, where he was discovered by FIFA agent Marcelo Houseman who recommended him to Atta Aneke, being subsequently taken on trial by Norway's Lyn.

He made his Tippeligaen debut on 16 September 2007 at the age of just 18, scoring in a 2–0 home win against Viking. He scored six goals in 13 matches in his second year to help his team to the seventh position, and subsequently arose interest from other clubs in the country, with Brann reporting Lyn to the Football Association of Norway for unfairness in the negotiation process.

Udinese / Granada

On 30 July 2008, Ighalo signed for Udinese in Italy, moving alongside teammate Jo Inge Berget and agreeing to a five-year contract He appeared rarely in Serie A in his debut season, scoring against Cagliari in a 6–2 home routing  four of his five league appearances came as a late substitute.

Ighalo was loaned to Granada in summer 2009, as part of the partnership agreement between Udinese and the Spaniards. He scored 17 times in his first year (playoffs included) and five in the second, as both seasons ended in promotion; this was interspersed with a brief loan stint back in Italy, with Cesena.

Ighalo continued playing with Granada in the following years, still owned by the Udine side. He played his first La Liga match on 27 August 2011, starting and playing the full 90 minutes in a 0–1 home loss to Real Betis.

Watford

Ighalo joined Watford on a season-long loan deal from Udinese, on 29 July 2014.He made his debut for the English club in the first round of the Football League Cup at Stevenage on 12 August, and scored his first goal in the Championship against Brentford on 30 September by tucking the ball home after his initial penalty was saved by David Button, in a 2–1 home win.

On 24 October 2014, Watford terminated Ighalo's loan and re-signed him on a permanent deal the same day after Udinese released him from his contract Exactly three months later, he scored four second-half goals and was voted Man of the match in a 7–2 home routing of Blackpool, who led 0–2 at half time; he took his league tally to 14 on 10 February 2015, after netting a brace to help his team come from behind at Brentford to win it 2–1 – his second came through an injury time header.

Ighalo scored in his Premier League debut on 8 August 2015, replacing José Manuel Jurado 16 minutes from time and putting the visitors ahead 2–1 in an eventual 2–2 draw away against Everton for the season opener. He netted twice in a 2–0 home win over West Ham United on 31 October, reaching seven goals for the season and becoming the highest club scorer in the competition after just 11 matches.

On 20 December 2015, Ighalo scored in a Watford victory for the fourth consecutive time, netting a brace in a 3–0 win over Liverpool.His five-goal haul earned him December's Premier League Player of the Month, while his manager Quique Sánchez Flores won the equivalent award.

Ighalo broke a 599-minute personal scoring drought on 13 March 2016, with a goal in a 2–1 win at holders Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, putting the Hornets into the last four for the first time in nine years. On 12 August he signed a new five-year contract but, the following season, he scored just one league goal and did not find the net in any of his last 15 games.

Changchun Yatai

On 31 January 2017, Ighalo joined Chinese Super League club Changchun Yatai for a reported £20 million.

International career

On 24 March 2015, after a series of strong performances for Watford, newly appointed Nigeria interim coach Daniel Amokachi selected Ighalo for the first time, and the latter stated, "I feel good because it is my dream to play for my country". He gained his first cap two days later, starting in a 0–1 friendly home loss to Uganda.

Ighalo was one of three overage players named in Nigeria's squad for the 2016 Olympic tournament in Brazil. In June 2018, he was named in the 23-man squad for the upcoming edition of the FIFA World Cup in Russia, making his first appearance in the competition by playing 73 minutes in the 0–2 group stage defeat against Croati; in October, he revealed that his family had received death threats after he failed to score in the tournament.

Personal life

Ighalo is known to be a devout Christian, who also often dedicates part of his wages for Nigerian charitable organisations to help impoverished children, schools and widows below the poverty line.

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