Victor Osimhen: Nigerian has qualities to ‘thrive’ in Premier League, says Emmanuel Adebayor

Victor Osimhen in action for Napoli
Image caption,Victor Osimhen has eight goals in 18 outings for Napoli this season, but is now preparing for Nigeria’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations campaign

By Oluwashina Okeleji

Sports Writer

Former Arsenal and Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor believes African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen possesses all the attributes required to “thrive” in the Premier League.

Nigeria front man Osimhen, who won the prestigious continental award in December, has become one of the hottest properties on the transfer market.

This is ostensibly on the strength of his stellar 2022-23 season, when his 26 goals saw him finish as top scorer in Italy’s Serie A and helped end a 33-year league title drought for Napoli.

Last month the 25-year-old extended his contract with the club until 2026, but that is unlikely to ward off suitors such as Arsenal and Chelsea who retain significant interest in his services.

“He has the right attitude, mentality and determination to excel there (in England),” former Togo captain Adebayor told BBC Sport Africa.

“I’m praying for him to move to the Premier League and show what he’s capable of.”

The Premier League was dominated by African strikers in the mid to late 2000s, with the likes of Adebayor, Didier Drogba and Yakubu headlining for some of the biggest clubs in the division.

The continent’s representation up front has thinned out significantly since then, and although both Mohamed Salah and former Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane sit atop the list of Africa’s highest scorers in the Premier League, neither is an out-and-out centre-forward in the traditional sense.

Osimhen idolised Ivory Coast striker Drogba growing up and has also made no secret of his desire to play in the Premier League in the future.

While Osimhen’s contract extension – along with his involvement at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast – is expected to keep interested parties at bay this month, the end of this season will no doubt see a number of clubs come in for the Napoli marksman.

Adebayor thinks the time is right for the Nigerian, who he affectionately referred to as his “younger brother”, to move to England and take up the mantle of the great African strikers from years gone by.

“The Premier League is the toughest and best (league) in the world,” Adebayor said.

“Osimhen has shown and done it already in Italy, I think it is the right time for him to move to England and replace his idol Drogba and do beautiful things.

“He has all it takes to make a name and write a great chapter in England like Drogba.”

Adebayor ’emotional’ after Osimhen thanks

Victor Osimhen with his Confederation of African Football (Caf) Footballer of the Year award
Image caption,Osimhen is the first Nigerian man to become African Footballer of the Year since Nwankwo Kanu in 1999

When Osimhen received his African Footballer of the Year award in Morocco, Adebayor was among the people he name-checked in his acceptance speech.

Adebayor, who himself won the Confederation Of African Football (Caf) accolade in 2008, has shed some light on his mentor relationship with Osimhen and said he was touched by his words.

“I started talking to him one or two years (ago),” the 39-year-old.

“Every time I talk to him, it’s about encouragement, and I tell him what to do and what not to do. I didn’t even know that he was listening.

“To come on a bigger stage like the Caf awards, the Ballon d’Or of Africa, and mention my name, and thank me for the encouragement… to be honest with you, I got emotional.

“And I’m a guy that doesn’t get emotional at all. But there I didn’t have a choice.

“It was even more beautiful than when I won it myself. To be honest with you, this is how big it was.

“This will stay with me for life. If he continues in this stride he will win more Caf awards in the future.”

Adebayor scored 97 goals in 241 appearances over the course of a decade in the Premier League, which began with the Gunners in 2006 and also included stints at Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace.

Having retired in March last year, he said his era in the English top flight was a “beautiful” time for African players – and some English footballers too.

“I remember very well when I was there we had Didier Drogba in Chelsea, myself in Tottenham or Arsenal, Yakubu was also there before, we then had Samuel Eto’o join us at some point with Chelsea and Everton,” he said.

“But you know football has its own time – people come and go.

“Obviously today you will not find Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard anymore, because those were the golden generation for England.

“Today the English national team doesn’t have a striker like Wayne Rooney who could do everything – kick and insult people and score goals at the same time.”

Emmanuel Adebayor in action for Arsenal in the Premier League during the 2007-08 campaign
Image caption,Emmanuel Adebayor’s best goalscoring campaign in the Premier League came in 2007-08, when he struck 24 times for Arsenal

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