Nigerian international Odion Ighalo was the topic of much speculation in January, having publicly expressed an interest in returning to the English Premier League. Although no clear opportunities arose, a solid offer did arrive from La Liga champions Barcelona in Spain.
Although the approach from the Spanish giants was a clear indication they appreciated his talent and experience, Ighalo later explained to BBC Sport why he rejected Barcelona, revealing they had only offered a short-term deal for him to act as a backup striker.
Insisting he had no regrets about letting such an opportunity pass him by, Ighalo’s preference was to remain in control of his career with a long-term contract elsewhere, which is how the move to Shanghai Shenhua came about.
Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo is joining Shenhua. He will reunite with Flores from their Watford days. Welcome @ighalojude pic.twitter.com/M3PCHbI1o4
— Shanghai Shenhua FC (@shanghaishenhua) February 14, 2019
Ighalo was offered a three-year contract and as an added bonus, former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores has been head coach at the Chinese club since last December. The chance to resume their successful working relationship was too good for the player to refuse.
Shanghai Shenhua have endured a mixed start to season and aren’t considered to be amongst the favourites to land the China Super League Title, although Ighalo always remains a popular choice within the best accumulator tips as an anytime scorer in matches.
Last season with Changchun Yatai, the 29-year-old striker finished the season with 36 goals in 55 games, making him the second highest scorer in the league. Since switching to Shanghai Shenhua, Ighalo is already well on his way to matching or exceeding that benchmark.
— Odion Jude Ighalo (@ighalojude) April 7, 2019
Since first donning the blue shirt of his new club, Ighalo has achieved an impressive personal tally of 7 goals in 8 games, before getting injured early in his ninth outing against Tianjin Teda. The Nigerian was substituted more as a matter of precaution, and will be hoping he makes a swift recovery, especially given how predatory he’s been in front of goal.
Continuing such a prolific run of scoring form will also be important for the team, as manager Quique Sanchez Flores continues labouring to implant his tactical ideas and concepts. Already familiar with his coaching methods, Ighalo will undoubtedly be an important figure in the dressing room and on the pitch, helping to convey those ideas to his teammates.
With his own long-term future now firmly secured in the Chinese Super League at Shanghai Shenhua, once the team is settled and more established as a group, there’s every reason to believe that in the coming seasons, Ighalo could very well lead their charge towards being genuine title contenders.