Zimbabwe: 'Ighalo's Move Silences Doubters'

6 February 2020

Nyasha Mushekwi says Manchester United's signing of Nigerian forward Odion Ighalo, on loan, proves that club football in China is not a dumping ground for faded stars.

The 30-year-old Super Eagles striker, who won the Golden Boot at the last AFCON finals in Egypt and featured in a pre-tournament friendly against the Warriors in Nigeria, was lured back into England by the Red Devils.

Manchester United have been struggling for goals after the club's main forward, Marcus Rashford, suffered a long-term back injury.

This has forced the club's technical team to go for Ighalo who once played for Watford in the Premiership.

Mushekwi played against Ighalo during the 2018 Chinese Super League.

The Zimbabwean forward finished as the fourth most prolific African striker that season with 15 goals, despite a delayed start to the campaign, in which he wasn't favoured by Dalian Yifang coach.

Mushekwi ended up among the top 10 players in the Golden Boot race that was won by Chinese international forward Wu Lei with 27 goals.

Ighalo was second in that race with 21 goals, while Congolese forward Cedric Bakambu, who was then the most expensive African footballer in history, was fourth with 19 goals.

This week Mushekwi, who is in Turkey on pre-season with his Chinese second-tier league side Zhejiang Greentown, said Ighalo's move showed there was quality in the Chinese leagues contrary to the belief that the foreign players who go there would be on their way out of the game.

"People just talk but Ighalo is a very good player," said Mushekwi. "We did play against each other. Players are moving, people just talk but the Chinese League is as big as most top leagues in the world.

"It is a very competitive league but you can't stop people from talking and saying what they want.

"However, when a club like Manchester United comes along, saying they believe a player like Ighalo has the quality that can help them, it should tell you that there is real quality in the Chinese Super League.

"And, Ighalo is not the only one who has been snapped by a top club from China in the last transfer window.

"(Yannick) Carrasco moved back to Atletico Madrid. Cedrick nearly went to Barcelona. And these are not small clubs. So, it's a good thing for Chinese football."

Carrasco, who played for Belgium in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, was Mushekwi's teammate during the Zimbabwean striker's time at Dalian Yifang.

He was brought to the Chinese club for £27m from Atletico Madrid who, on his return to the club, threw him straight into their squad for the Madrid Derby against Real last weekend.

"I personally think if Ighalo is given the chance at Man United, he is definitely not coming back to China," said Mushekwi.

Yesterday, Ighalo, who is a lifelong Manchester United fan, revealed he even took a pay cut to join his favourite boyhood team when the chance presented itself.

"I'm very happy," the Nigeria United's website. "First, I want say thank God for making this happen and it's just like a dream come true for me.

"People that know me, even back in Nigeria, and even when I was playing at Watford, my team-mates knew that I loved Man United, I support them. When I played against Man U, that emotion is there, because it is my dream.

"It is a nice reality, so I'm very happy and I'm looking forward to start.

"From 23:00 there was paperwork, negotiating and all that, for the loan deal and all that, so we are talking and other teams are calling them, wanting me," he said.

"But I told my agent that this is what I want. I want to come here. He said "you're going to get a pay cut to go to United" I said I don't care. Make this deal happen. I want to go to United. I don't care how much is the pay cut, I know that, make it happen.

"It was crazy because, all over the news for the last few days, is about my deal to Man United," he said. "Even the street I grew up on, they are doing parties, celebrating Ighalo signing for United."

Meanwhile, Mushekwi says he feels for all the people who have been affected by the outbreak of coronavirus, which has killed more than 500 people so far, and paralysed sporting events in China.

"We are in Turkey for pre-season,"Mushekwi said. "I don't know if we will play this season. It's pretty tough. This virus is affecting a lot of things.

"But we pray all will come to an end soon.

"We have been here since the end of January. We were in Thailand from the beginning of January. So, we haven't been to China yet and, from the look of it, we not going there any time soon.

"I don't know what's going to happen since there's this virus.

"And, the start of the league has been moved this season but nobody knows till when? So, it's sad. But we will just have to wait and see and also pray.

"We are staying here till, maybe, the 25th of February. We were supposed to stay until the 15th but now, because of this virus, they've extended the camp.

"I don't know where will go after but it's a sad situation. I can feel for my teammates who have families in China. But, everything will be okay in the end."

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