Elite-level strikers are a rare commodity in football. Every successful football team throughout history has had a talismanic forward leading the line, scoring goals out of nowhere, and often single-handedly winning games for the team. Nigerian superstar Victor Osimhen is one such top-tier striker.
Rumors about Osimhen’s future refuse to die down, with several of European football’s top teams reportedly monitoring the Nigerian’s form and availability. Premier League outfit Chelsea are the latest in a long line of clubs to be linked with Osimhen, and a recent chance meeting with the former Chelsea number nine Didier Drogba has added fuel to the flames.
Chelsea is crying out for a traditional number nine, a striker capable of finishing the multitude of chances the rest of the team creates. The London-based team has struggled over the past two seasons, with the latest soccer betting markets suggesting the Blues will once again fail to finish in the top six places and miss out on European football for the second season running. A lack of a legitimate goal threat is the primary reason for Chelsea’s struggles.
Osimhen is just one of several strikers Chelsea reportedly have their eye on. He is athletic, strong, has pace to burn, and knows how to find the back of the net. Osimhen seems like he would be able to adapt to the physicality of the English Premier League with relative ease. The 25-year-old is currently in Cote d’Ivoire representing Nigeria in the slightly delayed 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), and it is here that a chance meeting with Didier Droga started tongues wagging about Osimhen potentially leaving Serie A’s Napoli and becoming part of the setup at Stamford Bridge.
Ahead of Nigeria’s match against Ivory Coast on January 18, as both teams lined up in the tunnel, photographers captured Drogba giving Osimhen a warm embrace. The pair chatted briefly before parting ways as Nigeria and the Ivory Coast headed onto the pitch at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium. Nigeria won the game 1-0, thanks to a 55th-minute penalty scored by captain William Troost-Ekong after Osimhen stepped aside from his usual penalty-taking duties.
Although it is not unusual for former players to be around teams in the run-up to a game, Drogba talking to and hugging Osimhen could have more significance than a simple chance meeting. Osimhen has previously stated Drogba was one of his biggest influences when he was a youngster, and Drogba holds legendary status with Chelsea supporters.
Drogba joined Chelsea in July 2004 for a then-club-record fee of £24 million, making him the most expensive Ivorian player in history. He spent eight seasons at Stamford Bridge, played 341 games in all competitions, and scored 157 goals. Drogba’s eye for goal helped Chelsea win four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, and the UEFA Champions League. Drogba is highly influential in African football circles despite retiring from playing in 2018.
While it is entirely possible that Drogba was wishing Osimhen all the best for the upcoming game, Chelsea supporters are hopeful their former number nine was trying his best to sell the club to Osimhen, one of football’s hottest properties.
Most professional footballers dream of competing in the English Premier League. It is club football’s most-watched competition, and the players are, apart from some of the Saudi Arabian Super League teams, the best-paid on the planet.
Reporters from Sky Sports recently spoke to Osimhen at the 2023 AFCON, asking him if he wants to play in the Premier League.
“Of course, one day, definitely. But for now, I have other plans in my career that I am looking foeward to. So when the time comes, everyone knows,” Osmihen said.
In December 2023, Osimhen put pen to paper on a contract extension with Napoli that ties him to the Italian club until June 2026. The deal made Osimhen Napoli’s highest-paid star. The contract also reportedly includes a release clause that allows Osimhen to talk to any club that offers Napoli at least €130 million. Although Chelsea has mega-rich owners, the club is under investigation for potential breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. A move during the January transfer window is unlikely, but Chelsea could make a move in the summer once they have sold some players to free up funds.
Osimhen started his youth career with Ultimate Strikers Academy in his native Lagos before moving to VfL Wolfsburg of the German Bundesliga in January 2017 as a fresh-faced 19-year-old. Things didn’t work out for him in Germany, and he only featured in 16 games over two seasons, failing to score.
He was loaned to Belgian team Charleroi, where he hit the ground running, scoring 20 goals in 36 appearances in all competitions. His form for Charleroi prompted French Ligue 1 side Lille to pay €12 million for his services. After scoring 18 goals in 38 games, Napoli paid €70 million, rising to €80 million with add-ons, making him the most expensive African transfer. Osimhen scored ten goals in 30 games despite two shoulder injuries, contracting COVID-19, and suffering a fractured skull and eye socket.
Osimhen scored 18 goals in 32 games during the 2021-22 season, but the following season was his best-ever return. He fired 31 goals in 39 games, including 26 in 32 in Serie A, as Napoli won their first title in 33 years. Osimhen’s goal tally saw him win the Golden Boot. He became the first African to achieve this and became the highest-scoring African player in Serie A, besting George Weah‘s long-standing record.
This season, Osimhen has eight goals in 18 games, taking his career total to an astonishing 105 goals in 209 matches. Add to the mix his 21 goals in 29 games for Nigeria, and it is easy to see why Osimhen is one of world football’s hottest properties.
Will Osimhen sign for Chelsea in the near future? Chelsea would love him at the club, and Osimhen has hinted at his desire to play in the Premier League, so why not? Regardless, Napoli will be hard-pressed to keep hold of their Nigerian star, especially if he shines during AFCON this January.