Saturday, November 21, 2015

Kelechi Iheanacho vs. Jordon Ibe – Did Nigeria get the better wonderkid?

Kelechi Iheanacho

Recently, the Goal team presented a comparison between Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi and Tottenham Hotspur’s Dele Alli, two young prodigies, both with Nigerian origin, one who chose to represent the Super Eagles, the other who chose England.
Jordan Ibe

Ahead of Saturday’s Premier League bout between Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League, we’re considering similar themes, as the Citizens’ wonderkid Kelechi Iheanacho goes up against Reds starlet Jordon Ibe.

Once again, it’s the story of one player who will see out his future with the Super Eagles, and another who has made it clear that he is keen to try his hand with England.
Two young talents, one who will be cherished and elevated by Nigeria fans, another who will forever be ‘one who got away’.
Who got the better deal? Should Super Eagles fans, who saw Iheanacho make his debut during the international break, be content that they have the finer of the two, or ought they lament at having let Ibe slip away?
We compare these two talented teens.

There is something heart-warming about starting from the bottom to work your way up the ladder. It is a diligent approach that makes reward enjoyable and efficiency sustainable, a fitting testament to the formation of Jordon Ibe at Liverpool.
Kelechi Iheanacho, on the other hand, may have shut to limelight like an unencumbered shooting star with his one minute wonder goal this season with Manchester City, but it is Ibe’s not-so-sparkling yet steady budding flames at Anfield that seems the likeliest to withhold the raving winds of time.
From Brendon Rodgers’ keen gaze to the pulsating hugs of Jurgen Klopp, Ibe’s career looks to be set on an upward trajectory, one that only he himself can truncate.
He’s got what every other youngster, including City’s Iheanacho, craves for the most: opportunities.
And that, my friend, is what transforms 19-year-old boys to men.

With City’s collection of multi-millionaire firepower upfront and in the middle, Iheanacho’s role, despite his obvious talent, has been reduced to mere cameos (especially when everyone is fully fit), certainly not the most expansive of environments to spread one’s wings or platform for sustained growth.
With 14 appearances in all competitions this season, Ibe has been able to rake up valuable minutes (717) as he continues his development under the youth-friendly Klopp.
The departure of Raheem Sterling has not dampened the spirits of the Reds immensely, largely due to the promises Ibe has shown.
From the Under-18s to Championship side Birmingham City, where he helped the Blues avoid relegation, to another season-long loan spell at Derby County, which was cut short mid-season due to his rapid growth, the 19-year-old’s determination speaks for its self.   
An outstanding display vs. Everton in February, a crucial assist for the winning goal in the 3-2 victory over Tottenham Hotspur and a sumptuous solo goal against Rubin Kazan in the Europa League are highlights of his impressive contributions with the Reds’ first-team this season.
With his feet firmly rooted to the ground, and his head tucked in his shoulders, Ibe’s legend could be one that supersedes that of his peers when tales are told in the future.
Many player emerge who have the potential to be classy Premier League operators, and who appear destined for a long career at the top.
Ibe’s form for Liverpool to date has already suggested that he comfortably belongs in this category. He explosiveness and his directness catch the eye, of course, but he’s an intelligent player—evidenced by the ease with which he played in different positions across the park under Brendan Rodgers last term—whose creativity has begun to shine through in recent fixtures.
However, I question whether he truly has that x factor that could set him apart as one of the greats of the game.
Iheanacho, on the other hand, may just fall into this second category, this truly elite player who can become a world-class performer and truly decide the major contests on a regular basis.
Yaya Toure certainly agrees…and he should know! The midfielder was effusive in his praise of his young teammate, and had the following to say about Iheanacho to the Manchester Evening News: “When I started at Barcelona it was always easy to play with great players and learn as well,” he began.
“They help you to progress. He’s young and still learning. You have to be focused and fully committed. I am delighted for him and I always give him advice because Kelechi is fantastic; he is clever, he listens very carefully and he works hard in training.
“I think for me Iheanacho has the potential to progress and be one of the top players one day.”
While we saw these qualities in Iheanacho during his glorious Capital One Cup performance against Crystal Palace, his recent Nigeria debut was somewhat muted.
I have little doubt that in time, the 19-year-old will go on to become the jewel in the crown of Sunday Oliseh’s young Super Eagles side.
Fit-again Sergio Aguero and improving Wilfried Bony immediately stand in the youngster’s way, but Toure’s own opinion is that training with the elite talent in the City squad day in day out, as well as the immediate example of Aguero, will ensure that Iheanacho is able to realize his potential at the Etihad Stadium.
He may be taking his time to make a sustained impact at City, but Iheanacho’s vision, technical prowess and anticipation, not to mention the confidence with which he takes to the pitch, have already established him not just as a potential Premier League star, but one of the finest prospects in the world game.
And the best bit? He is now a fully-fledged Super Eagle!

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