Former African Footballer of the Year, Victor Ikpeba has credited Leicester City’s number 9, Jamie Vardy for Kelechi Iheanacho’s rich vein of form in the recently concluded season.
The Nigeria national team ended the campaign with an impressive 19 goals in all competitions – a personal best in a single-season since he turned professional.
1996 Atlanta Olympics gold medalist, Ikpeba pointed out that things have not always been rosy for Iheanacho, so much so that speculation had linked him with a departure from the King Power Stadium as he was playing second fiddle to Vardy.
Vardy created spaces for Iheanacho with his intelligent movement, helping his strike partner to flourish.
“I think for Kelechi, look at the pass from Vardy, Vardy has been instrumental to his form.
“He has been collectively brilliant, he has taken his moments, all the criticism last season, people said that he is going to be sold in January.
“That is what I like about players, you go out there, quiet your critics and you deliver. As a striker you have to go out there and score goals and he has been doing that,” Ikpeba said.
Ikpeba saw firsthand the qualities of Iheanacho during the FIFA U17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, where he won the Golden Ball award after scoring six goals and providing seven assists.
“I saw Kelechi in the United Arab Emirates 2013, he can hit the ball very well and he has the quality to do that.
“But sometimes like all African players you need some time to be stable, people around you matters a lot – your manager, your family.
“The biggest problem for Kelechi now is that he has to do better next season, he cannot be relaxed. People want more and he knows that so he should have a nice rest and think about next season,” concluded Ikpeba.
Iheanacho is currently with the Super Eagles in Austria for their friendly against Cameroon on June 4.