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Football’s Rising Stars – Kelechi Iheanacho

In a Manchester City squad that has proven strikers like Sergio Aguero and Wilfried Bony, Kelechi Iheanacho was a relatively unheard name before the beginning of the 2015/16 season. But the youngster has gone on to enjoy a breakthrough campaign at the Etihad Stadium, having bagged 13 goals and seven assists in the Citizens’ cause this season.

The Nigerian forward is a product of Manchester City’s burgeoning youth academy and appears to be the real deal for the club. He made his senior debut for the Manchester outfit against Watford in a 2-0 win for his side and subsequently scored his first goal for the club in a narrow and late 1-0 win over Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace in September last year.

He has already scored his first hat-trick for the first team, which came against Aston Villa in a FA Cup fixture earlier this year. There have been times when Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini could have been questioned for, at times, preferring Bony over Iheanacho this season.

Considering Bony is a proven Premier League goalscorer that is an achievement in itself for the striker who is still only 19-year-old.

Playing style

The youngster is capable of playing at all three forward positions – on the wings and as a centre-forward. Although he looks best suited to play as a central striker, Iheanacho has also made appearances as a withdrawn forward – notably against Stoke City on 23rd April in a league encounter, as he went on to score twice as well as provided an assist against the Potters.

Video courtesy Martovskyi.

Future at Manchester City

At the end of the ongoing season, Pellegrini will make way for Pep Guardiola at the Manchester outfit. The Catalan, who has won six league titles – three each in La Liga and the Bundesliga – is known to demand complete control of the team, especially of the players that come and go.

With the way that majority of the Manchester City players have performed this season, it is expected that some of them will leave the side in the summer. It seems Iheanacho isn’t going to be one of them. Guardiola likes to work with young players, especially the keen learners amongst them, and Iheanacho appears to fit the bill for a Guardiola youngster.

Prospects with the national team

He has represented Nigeria at youth levels and was an integral part of the Under-17 side of the Super Eagles which won the 2013 World Cup. Iheanacho was named player of the tournament for his six goals, including one in the final against Mexico.

The 19-year-old was also part of the Nigeria side at the Under-20 World Cup last summer in New Zealand.

Iheanacho has subsequently gone on to make first team debut for the Super Eagles, having appeared in fixtures against Swaziland in a World Cup qualifier and against Egypt in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match.

With Arsenal youngster Alex Iwobi also committing for Nigeria, the future of the African nation bodes well.