Coach Manu Garba has said that Leicester City and Nigeria forward Kelechi Iheanacho’s recent struggles could be attributed to bad decisions he has received from friends.
Iheanacho, 23, announced himself to the world with a star performance at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Emirates. The Golden Eaglets lifted the trophy, with Iheanacho himself winning both the Golden Boot and Golden Ball.
That performance was enough to attract a number of suitors for the Taye Academy product, and it was Manchester City who won the race for his signature.
Iheanacho wasted no time in impressing his new employers, and he was drafted into the City first team from the youth team and scored 14 goals in the 2015-16 season.
Pep Guardiola’s arrival in 2017 sent the fairytale into a bit of a nightmare, and Iheanacho was sold to Leicester City for £25 million in 2017. He is yet to really show those FIFA U-17 qualities that made him highly sought after, giving only flashes of brilliance.
And Garba, who coached Iheanacho to victory in 2013, believes that the forward’s quick rise to stardom crash-landed due to the ‘bad influences from friends’.
“I’m still wondering how Kelechi didn’t emerge as one of the best in England,” he told The Athletic.
“He might have fallen under bad influences from friends, coming from a poor background to an improved status. That can become a distraction when you are so young, but I have seen the old Iheanacho at Leicester.”
Garba recalled that Iheanacho was at a loss after the death of his mother two months before the 2013 African Under-17 Championship in Morocco, but still gave an outstanding display against the Republic of Congo in the group phase.
“During the qualifying matches before the tournament against Niger, Guinea and Mali, he was our leading scorer, but I can vividly remember two weeks before the last qualifying match against Mali, he lost his mother [to a short illness] and he was psychologically very low.
“Even his father couldn’t calm him down because he was so close to his mother. I had to use wisdom to calm him down and he made the team against Mali.”
Garba further added that Iheanacho will still come good for the Foxes.
“Iheanacho is an asset to any club if the manager understands him, helps him and works on his off-the-ball contribution. He will be useful coming behind the main striker because his final passes are inch-perfect, and he can shoot from distance. He will be a good player for Leicester.”
Iheanacho has made 89 appearances, scoring 20 goals and providing 12 assists.