Odion Ighalo, who is emerging as a target for just about every ambitious Chinese club, says he is in the dark over the attempts of Shanghai Shenhua to link him up with Carlos Tevez.
Ighalo has been the subject of firm interest from Hebei China Fortune and Shanghai SIPG in the last 18 months, with the former attempting to lure him with a salary of £40m over four years while the latter tested Watford’s resolve with an eye-watering bid of £37.5m. Shanghai Shenhua, who are managed by Gus Poyet, are now apparently the latest Super League club trying to move him to Asia.
“I don’t know anything about the interest from Shanghai Shenhua, I have to ask my agent Atta [Aneke], ” Ighalo told allnigeriasoccer.com after training on Friday.
There were reports that Ighalo would have to get the blessing of his national team coach said Gernot Rohr before moving but you would have thought Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury, his paymasters, would feature higher in the priority list. “I haven’t spoken to him [Rohr] about anything apart from wishing each other Happy New Year last week.”
Walter Mazzarri was asked about Ighalo on Friday. He was keen to not add any fuel to the fire but, interestingly, he stopped short of saying ‘He’s going nowhere’.
“I will speak only about players with us at this moment.” he said. “I don’t want to speak about anyone or teams who want our players.”
Contrast that with what Mazzarri said at the start of last month: “Ighalo is a player that I like and I trust very much…we need to have at least six important strikers and Ighalo is one of them.”
Mazzarri’s shifting stance maybe reflective of the club’s change in position when it comes to Ighalo. They were previously adamant no senior starter would be moved on in the winter window as it would leave them little time to find a high-calibre replacement. They would prefer to address the spine of the team in the cold light of day in the summer.
However, Ighalo’s worth is decreasing and his form – two goals in his last 31 league games – is showing no signs of improving. If they have been offered a replacement – agents are looking to place players at Watford all the time – then the time might be deemed right to return to the well-established Pozzo model of selling players when their value is at its highest. Tony Pulis, for starters, is a known admirer of the Nigerian and tried to swap him for Saido Berahino in the summer.
“I cannot be inside his head,” said Mazzarri when asked how Ighalo was amid the speculation and downturn in form. “I saw him training and he trained very well. I tell him, like I tell all my players, to go there, give everything, run for 90 minutes, fight for every ball and then you are helping the team. The goals will come but it is important you give everything.”