Odion Ighalo will be a man on a mission at St Mary’s tomorrow.
Restored to the side to spearhead the attack, Ighalo will be keen to claim back as quickly as possible the goal against Chelsea the dubious goals panel harshly chalked off his tally yesterday, knocking him down to 13 goals and leaving him now two adrift off Jamie Vardy and Romelu Lukaku. The Nigerian may also be motivated by the desire to show Southampton and their fans what all the fuss has been about since the drab fixture at Vicarage Road in August. He was, remember, hugely ineffective against the Saints in a game where Alessandro Diamanti came on at half-time to such disappointing effect.
He has since scored 12 Premier League goals, seen his value rocket and become one of the most coveted strikers in Europe. If Lewis Grabban is worth £7m and Benik Afobe £9m, then what on earth is Ighalo, 26, worth on the open market? No wonder a top club official asked if Atletico Madrid “were buying his right arm” when we asked how they would respond to a bid of £12m from La Liga leaders.
Ighalo has since said he would, one day, fancy a move to Old Trafford, the Theatre of Dreams. Matt Le Tissier, a legend at the home of tomorrow’s opponents, feels Ighalo would walk into any team in the Premier League.
“He’d fit the bill in any of the top four,” Le Tissier said on Soccer Saturday. “I’ve been so impressed with this boy. He doesn’t look like the strongest but he’s held off strong defenders this season. He finds space in cramped areas. He’s been outstanding. I think he wouldn’t look out of place in any team in the Premier League. Watford can’t offer the kind of wages someone else could offer in the summer. Watford will think they can’t stand in his way.”
Watford will block any move this month and will reassess the situation in the summer. They may even look to bring in his long-term replacement this month and use the rest of the season to slowly integrate him.
“Come the summer everyone will be chasing this guy,” Phil Thompson said. “This guy can hold it up and beat people.”
Charlie Nicholas commanded the second most highest fee for a player signed from Scotland when he joined Arsenal in 1983 for a fee of £750,000. The Soccer Saturday pundit believes Watford could be looking at a fee of 40 times that for Ighalo in the summer.
“If you are talking about £20m to £25m for Berahino, what his value is this guy? Watford could make a lot of money out of him.”