Super Eagles and Charleroi striker Victor Osimhen tells JOHNNY EDWARD about his desire to make an impact at the AFCON and more, in this interview
What informed your decision to join Sporting Charleroi permanently from Wolfsburg?
Charleroi wanted me more than the other teams I was linked with at that time. And I just needed to repay the faith the club had in me when I first arrived last year. They helped to improve on my game. I hope to move to a bigger club in the coming years but first, I want to build on my performance in Belgium and stay consistent by scoring goals.
Last season was your best in Europe since you turned professional, scoring 20 goals for Charleroi and named Player of The Season at the club. How did you turn your fortunes around after a difficult start to your career at Wolfsburg?
I can’t forget this season in a hurry. It was a remarkable one and I must say my coaches at Charleroi brought the best out of me and they deserve the accolades. The first eight games into the season were rough as I wasn’t fully fit. But when I scored my first goal for the club against Waaslan Beveren in my first start, it boosted my confidence. From there, I grew in confidence and my teammates also believed in me to deliver.
Your short stay at Wolfsburg wasn’t really a memorable one. What would you attribute that early setback to?
I didn’t play as often as I wished due to injury. I only got my chance during the Bundesliga relegation playoffs when other experienced strikers were out injured and I think I did well. But the goals didn’t come. If you’re a young striker at a big club and you don’t play every week and you don’t score as often as you should, then it can be career-threatening because no one in this world is patient enough to see you through those tough times. But now I’m mentally very strong. I go into games with supreme confidence. Physically, I feel ready each time we have a game and it didn’t matter who we were playing against, I never had any feelings of failure. So joining Charleroi was a right move for me because I believe I can fulfil my potential there.
Are you saying that with the reported offers from AC Milan and Atalanta in Italy, it could not have been helpful to fulfil your potential?
Those teams are good teams and will be playing in the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League next season but I mean I’m already settled in Belgium. I have a great coach who believes in me and also, Charleroi were the only team that activated the option to sign me and that’s what really matters.
Prior to the announcement of the final squad for the 2019 AFCON tournament coming up in Egypt, were you scared about being left out of the squad?
At some point, I was; but that gave me the zeal to give my best in training. In fact, at a point, I ignored certain distractions so I could be fully focused on just scoring in training to give myself a chance. I just trained like I’d been doing at my club and it paid off. After one session on our way back to the dressing room, the boss (Gernot Rohr) told me to keep on working hard, adding that my opportunity will come.
The AFCON tournament kicks off on Friday. How excited are you making the final squad and what do you think your addition will bring to the team?
I’m looking forward to having a great tournament with the Super Eagles. I just want to make an impact. Hopefully, when I get my opportunity I can take it and help the team. Odion Ighalo remains the team’s first choice striker but we will be ready to step in when the opportunity arises. The competition for places in the team has been tough but we all have different qualities that we bring to the team and that make things quite interesting.
Is there any pressure on you to replicate your goalscoring form at club level for Nigeria?
Not at all. I just have to show why I was selected for the tournament when I get the chance. But of course, pressure may come if things don’t go well in Egypt but I pray that doesn’t happen.
How far do you think you guys can go at the AFCON in Egypt?
As far as winning the title. There are many quality teams in Africa now and it’s getting harder to play against them. So, we must not underrate any team. The feat Burundi and Madagascar achieved is remarkable, I mean qualifying for the AFCON for the first time but I strongly believe we will progress. The whole nation will be watching us in Egypt and it’s going to be a huge privilege for all of us representing them. We want to give our all and try and lift this trophy. Every side in the tournament has got top quality. What we have to do is show why we are the Super Eagles. We’ve got the quality to take on the rest of Africa in Egypt.
Aside Nigeria, which other teams do you think also stand a good chance of winning the AFCON?
The hosts Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal are some of the teams I believe are capable of winning the title. Who knows? There could be surprises as well but I can’t wait to play for my country and win it.