Super Eagles’ striker, Odion Ighalo, is set to become Nigeria’s latest export to the Chinese Super league if he accepts the offer to join Chngchun Yatai. The club yesterday agreed a £20 million deal with Watford for the striker.
However, according to mirror.co.uk, West Brom could hijack the deal with a last-minute bid – but only if Baggies manager Tony Pulis matches the price agreedwith Chongchun. Pulis, who sold Saido Berahino to Stoke two weeks ago, pulled out of the running for Ighalo after claiming Watford wanted too much for him, but the Hornets would not be surprised if Albion rejoined the auction at the 11th hour.
Ighalo has gone from top scorer at Vicarage Road, andmagician behind the ‘Iggy chop’ party trick – which leftcountless defenders on their backsides – to a spare part in danger of missing out on a Premier League squad number. And Watford head coach, Walter Mazzarri, admitted Ighalo’s departure was imminent last night, saying: “Every morning I ask the club what the situation is, andnegotiations are now at an advanced stage, so it should only be a matter of a couple of days.”
Ighalo was top scorer across all four divisions in the calendar year 2015, when his 30 goals fired the Hornets to promotion and Premier League safety, in all but name, by Christmas.
Even when the goals dried up for him in the second half of last season, Shanghai SIPD made a mind-blowing £37.5m bid for Ighalo last summer – which the player rejected.
His market value plummeted as he finished 2016 with just six goals in all competitions, and Watford’s top brass agree a fresh start is the best solution for all parties.
Another Chinese club, Shanghai Shenhua, were exploring the possibility of pairing Ighalo with Carlos Tevez, the world’s highest-paid player on £600,000-a-week. But they would not meet Watford’s £27m asking price for a player their rivals SIPD had valued £10m higher only six months ago. Ighalo appeared to be waving goodbye to travelling fans after the 2-2 draw at Bournemouth 17 days ago and was left out of the squad altogether for the embarrassing FA Cup defeat at Millwall on Sunday.
And after the arrivals of on-loan AC Milan striker M’Baye Niang – whose move is scheduled to become a permanent £14m transfer in the summer – and Mauro Zarate last week, Ighalo was sinking further down the pecking order than a mineshaft. With £12.6m Isaac Success back in full training and skipper Troy Deeney among the crown jewels, Ighalo was faced with becoming fifth-choice striker. Furthermore, he was in danger of being excluded from Watford’s upgraded 25-man Premier League squad after the transfer window shuts because of the surfeit of foreign players on the books at Vicarage Road.