Victor Osimhen

Victor Osimhen: Why Nigeria's 'New King of Africa' is top transfer target

Even before spearheading Nigeria to the Africa Cup of Nations final, Victor Osimhen was a top target for Europe's elite clubs.

In part that was due to Napoli's historic Serie A triumph last season.

The managerial impact of Luciano Spalletti was undeniable, but it is equally impossible to imagine such a triumph without the club's star striker.

So what exactly makes the self-proclaimed 'New King of Africa' so special?

All-round threat

Nearing the peak of his powers and now in his fourth season at Napoli, it wouldn't be unreasonable to argue that Osimhen is in the same bracket as the likes of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe.

He's a combination of a target man, channel runner and a poacher, making him an elite all-round striker.

This season, he's scored seven goals in the league from an expected goals (xG) figure of 6.7, while providing two assists in just under 1000 Serie A minutes, backing up last season's incredible campaign which saw him net 26 times and set up a further four goals.

Osimhen is immense in receiving and holding up the ball
Osimhen is immense in receiving and holding up the ball

One big reason of what makes him such an effective target man is his ability to receive with his superb leaps. This ability makes him near impossible to stop when he is able to chest down long passes from the defenders.

So much so that the Nigerian broke Cristiano Ronaldo's record for the highest jump ever in Serie A with a 2.58m leap against Spezia to score the first of a well-earned brace.

Physical and direct

On the ground, Osimhen is far better than the average number nine across the top European leagues. Comfortable in receiving the ball and generally looking for spaces to turn towards, he can be relied upon to retain the ball whilst runners surround him for support.

Putting that into the numerical context, last season he attempted 75 take-ons in Serie A with a success-rate of 33%.

Not a bad figure for a striker who also scored a league-high tally of 26 goals last term.

Osimhen is slender and his body type isn't as wide and intimidating as someone like Haaland for example, however, he is deceptively strong and can be more than a handful in duels for centre-backs.

Once he escapes their grasp, Osimhen is very quick for his size and long strides help him eat up ground in transition and even whilst running the channels.

Fluid in position

He isn't averse to abandoning central areas to be an option out wide to receive the ball.

From there, his understanding with fellow attackers in forward areas comes alive. In the 22/23 season, he and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia combined for a league-high six goals, where the Georgian assisted all six.

Osimhen keeps centre-backs on their toes
Osimhen keeps centre-backs on their toes

In Spalletti's 4-3-3, Osimhen's best qualities shone through not just because of how his involvement was limited overall, but also because of where he saw the ball from his team-mates. A cursory glance at Napoli in possession on the pitch will always have Osimhen high and central in his positioning.

Deadly finisher

This also means that a lot of shots are within the frame of the goalpost and within that central corridor of the penalty area. That's where Osimhen does his best work, with head and feet.

Osimhen xG Shot Map

Osimhen's leaping prowess naturally makes him a huge threat in the box, almost becoming a magnet for crosses by fullbacks and wingers from wide areas. From 76 headed attempts last term, Osimhen scored seven goals.

The quality of those chances accounted for nearly 27% of his xG tally overall (21.4). Osimhen's ability to generate a high volume of shots repeatedly makes him a bully for opposition defences.

Ready for demands of elite sides

These days, strikers are required to do more than just put the ball in the back of the net. Though that is the hardest part of the job, there is also a great deal of off-ball responsibilities that outfield players have these days.

Especially in teams that tend to dictate the ball in most games, it is equally crucial for those teams to win the ball as quickly as they lose it. Strikers like Osimhen make life easier for coaches - the former Lille man is an excellent presser and makes it his mission to make life difficult for the opposition.

Osimhen's talents are for the top, that much is clear. And this summer, he is certainly going to take that next step.

A move to the Premier League has been a dream for the Napoli forward, who has idolised Didier Drogba growing up. The London pair of Arsenal and Chelsea could certainly do with a player like him, whilst other clubs have 9s of their own to rely on.

Wherever he ends up going next, goals are guaranteed.

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