Victor James Osimhen MON MFR (born 29 December 1998) is a Nigerian professional footballer who plays as a striker for Serie A club Napoli and the Nigeria national team. Regarded as one of the best players in the world, he is known for his elite finishing, pace, strength and athleticism.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Victor Osimhen
Osimhen with Nigeria in 2023
Personal information
Full name Victor James Osimhen[1]
Date of birth (1998-12-29) 29 December 1998 (age 25)
Place of birth Lagos, Nigeria
Height 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)[2]
Position(s) Striker
Team information
Current team
Napoli
Number 9
Youth career
Ultimate Strikers Academy
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2017–2019 VfL Wolfsburg 14 (0)
2018–2019Charleroi (loan) 25 (12)
2019 Charleroi 0 (0)
2019–2020 Lille 27 (13)
2020– Napoli 102 (62)
International career
2015 Nigeria U17 7 (10)
2015–2019 Nigeria U23 4 (3)
2017– Nigeria 35 (21)
Medal record
Men's football
Representing  Nigeria
Africa Cup of Nations
Runner-up 2023 Ivory Coast
Third place 2019 Egypt
FIFA U-17 World Cup
Winner 2015 Chile
*Club domestic league appearances and goals, correct as of 16:06, 7 April 2024 (UTC)
‡ National team caps and goals, correct as of 23:31, 11 February 2024 (UTC)

Born in Nigeria, Osimhen began his senior career in Germany at VfL Wolfsburg in 2017.[9] Following a season and a half at the club, he moved to Belgian side Charleroi on loan in 2018–19, before moving to Ligue 1 with Lille, scoring eighteen goals in his sole season with the French club.

In 2020, Osimhen transferred to Serie A side Napoli for a club-record fee of €70 million, and won the Serie A Best Young Player award in the 2021–22 season. In the following campaign, he finished as the league's top scorer with 26 goals, a record-high for an African player, as he helped Napoli win a first Serie A title for 33 years. For his efforts, he won the league's Best Striker award, before also being named Serie A Footballer of the Year a few months later. Osimhen is currently the highest scoring African player in the history of Serie A.[10][11]

Osimhen won the Golden Boot award at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup, which Nigeria won.[12] He made his senior international debut in June 2017, and played at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019 and 2023, reaching the final of the latter tournament. He is currently the joint-third all-time highest goalscorer of the Nigeria national team.[13] On 29 May 2023, Osimhen was made a Member of the Federal Republic by President Muhammadu Buhari.[14]

Osimhen finished in eighth place at the 2023 Ballon d'Or ceremony, becoming the first Nigerian to make the top ten of the French award.[15] He was also named the African Footballer of the Year at the 2023 CAF Awards, the first Nigerian to receive this honour since Nwankwo Kanu in 1999.[16]

Early life

Osimhen was born in Lagos, whose parents hail from Edo State. He grew up in the Olusosun area in Oregun/Ojota of Lagos State. Growing up, his footballing idol was Didier Drogba.[17]

Club career

Osimhen started his career at the Ultimate Strikers Academy, based in Lagos, Nigeria. In January 2016, after being noticed for his performances at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup, Osimhen committed to a pre-contract with VfL Wolfsburg, stipulating that he would officially join the club in January 2017.[18][19][20][21]

VfL Wolfsburg

2017–18: First seasons in Europe

On 5 January 2017, Osimhen officially signed a three-and-a-half-year deal with the club, lasting until June 2020.[22][23] Out with an injury upon his arrival,[24] he made his Bundesliga debut for Wolfsburg on 13 May, coming on as a substitute in the 59th minute in a 1–1 draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach.[25] Osimhen also came on the following week in a pivotal relegation tie against Hamburger SV, on what was the final match day of the 2016–17 season. He replaced defender Sebastian Jung with the score tied 1–1, and Hamburg scored a late winner to pass Wolfsburg in the table, sending Wolfsburg to a relegation playoff with Eintracht Braunschweig. Osimhen was in the squad for both matches, receiving a cameo at the end of the second leg with Wolfsburg's participation in the next Bundesliga confirmed, as they won 2–0 on aggregate.

Osimhen was named in 12 of the 17 matchday squads in the first half of the 2017–18 season, appearing in 5 games. He earned his full Bundesliga debut on 28 January 2018 against Hannover, playing the full 90 minutes in their 1–0 win.[26] Osimhen made two more starts the rest of the campaign, playing the full match against Werder Bremen on 11 February and being replaced at the half by Daniel Didavi against Hertha Berlin on 31 March. Wolfsburg were again in the relegation playoff, but Osimhen missed out through injury. He also appeared in one game of Wolfsburg's DFB Pokal campaign, replacing midfielder Josuha Guilavogui for the last ten minutes of their 1–0 defeat to Schalke in the quarter-final. Osimhen underwent shoulder surgery on 2 May, ending his season with 12 appearances in the Bundesliga to his name.[27]

2018–19: Loan to Charleroi

Osimhen had summer trials with Belgian clubs Zulte Waregem and Club Brugge, who were the reigning champions. However, a summer bout with malaria had affected his physical condition, and neither club decided to take him on loan.[28] On 22 August 2018, Osimhen joined Belgian club Charleroi on a season-long loan deal, having failed to score in any of his 16 appearances with Wolfsburg.[29] He replaced the departed Kaveh Rezaei, who was sold to Club Brugge after scoring 3 goals in the first three games of the season.[30] Osimhen made his debut on 1 September against Excel Mouscron, entering as a late substitute for Jérémy Perbet. Osimhen made his full debut on 22 September, scoring his first goal as a professional with a backheel against Waasland-Beveren.[31] Waasland-Beveren would equalise against 10-man Charleroi, and Perbet would later get sent off in the game as well, aiding manager Felice Mazzu's selection up top. Osimhen would start with Adama Niane for the next four games, scoring the club's only goal in losses to Cercle Brugge and Gent. He also scored twice in the last five minutes in a 3–2 win over Zulte Waregem on 21 October, after Hamdi Harbaoui had given Waregem a 2–1 lead with a second half brace.[32] Osimhen was not dropped from the side until 25 November, when he scored a goal off the bench in the club's 4–2 win over Lokeren. After the game, Osimhen told BBC Sport that he had "found his happiness again".[33] Osimhen finished the first half with 8 goals in 16 games, second only to Cristian Benavente in the team.

After a successful spell with the Belgian side, playing 36 games and scoring 20 goals, Charleroi activated their option to acquire Osimhen following his satisfactory performances while on loan.[34]

Lille

 
Osimhen playing for Lille in 2019

Despite being a reported target of several European clubs, French Ligue 1 club Lille confirmed the transfer of Osimhen on 1 August 2019, signing a five-year contract.[35] The transfer fee was reported to be priced at €12 million plus another €3m in various bonuses and add-ons.[36][37] Upon his arrival, he told the club's official website: "Lille is a very good club which has a quality project and high-class players, and especially these last years. Great Nigerian players (Peter Odemwingie and Vincent Enyeama) have also played here."[38][39] Osimhen was given the number 7, which was previously worn by Rafael Leão.[40]

Ten days after the move, he made his Ligue 1 debut for the club on 11 August, scoring a brace in a 2–1 win against Nantes.[41] Two weeks later, he scored another brace in a 3–0 home win against Saint-Étienne for his third game in France, his performance earning him a rating of 8/10 in French sports newspaper L'Équipe.[42]

Osimhen was named the Ligue 1 Player of the Month for September 2019, having scored two goals and assisted two more in Lille's five league matches.[43] He then scored his first goal in the UEFA Champions League on 2 October 2019, coming in a 1–2 home defeat to English side Chelsea.[44] In March, a report published by the league showed that Osimhen was the player who has most broken the 35 km/h (21.75 mph) barrier with seven sprints above this speed, ahead of Kylian Mbappé.[45] The Nigerian finished the season as Lille's top scorer, with 13 goals in 25 domestic championship matches, and 18 goals across all competitions.[46]

His good season and strong goalscoring performances earned him the 2020 Prix Marc-Vivien Foé, a prize awarded to the best African player in the French championship,[47] and saw Osimhen tipped by many to be in running for the African Footballer of the Year award in the near future.[48] On 2 June 2020, he was awarded Lille's Player of the Season, having secured the highest number of votes from fans.[49]

Napoli

2020–22: First seasons adjustments

On 31 July 2020, Serie A club Napoli announced the signing of Osimhen,[50] for a club-record fee of €70 million potentially rising to €80 million with add-ons, making him the most expensive African transfer to date.[51] On 17 October, Osimhen scored his first goal for Napoli in a 4–1 win against Atalanta. Upon scoring, he held up a shirt calling for the ending of the ongoing police brutality in his home country of Nigeria.[52]

On 13 November, during an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying game played whilst on international break with Nigeria, Osimhen was stretchered off injured.[53] This was then diagnosed as a shoulder injury that would keep Osimhen away from the playing field for two months.

While recovering from the injury, Osimhen was authorized by his club to spend time in his home country, where he got a chance to celebrate his birthday. It was during these birthday celebrations that it is believed Osimhen contracted the COVID-19 virus, as he tested positive upon returning to Naples.[54] This positive test, together with his shoulder injury, kept Osimhen away from action until his return to the side on 29 January 2021, when he was subbed on for around twenty minutes of Napoli's Coppa Italia win against Spezia.[55]

On 16 September 2021, Osimhen scored a brace in a 2–2 away draw against Leicester City in the Europa League group stage.[56] In November 2021, Osimhen suffered a horrific head injury and a fractured skull and eye socket in Napoli's 3–2 loss to Inter Milan at San Siro.[57] He underwent immediate surgery and was forced to miss the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.[58] He has been wearing a protective mask since and by the end of the season, he scored 14 goals in Serie A and 18 in all competitions.[59]

2022–23: Breakthrough, Capocannoniere and Serie A title

 
Osimhen playing for Napoli in 2023

On 12 October 2022, Osimhen scored his first Champions League goal with Napoli in a 4–2 win over Ajax, which secured their qualification to the knockout phase.[60] On 29 October, he scored his first Serie A hat-trick in a 4–0 win over Sassuolo.[61] On 11 November, he scored a goal and assisted another to help Napoli win 2–1 at Atalanta, becoming Nigeria's highest goal scorer in the Italian Serie A with 32 goals, and surpassing Simy's record of 31.[62]

On 13 January 2023, Osimhen scored two and assisted another as Napoli beat Juventus 5–1.[63] On 17 February 2023, he scored his 100th career goal to help Napoli win 2–0 at Sassuolo.[64] He also became the first ever player in the history of Napoli in the three-point era to score in seven league games in a row.[65] In the Champions League round of 16, Osimhen scored three goals over two legs for Napoli against Eintracht Frankfurt, which ended in a 5–0 win on aggregate and a first-time qualification to the quarter-finals.[66]

On 4 May 2023, he scored the equaliser in a 1–1 draw with Udinese, confirming Napoli as Serie A champions for the first time in 33 years.[67] His goal made him the joint-highest goalscoring African in the Serie A alongside George Weah and the African player with the most goals in a single Italian championship season, breaking Samuel Eto'o's record in the process.[10] Three days later, he scored the winning goal from a penalty in a 1–0 victory over Fiorentina, to become the highest scoring African player in Serie A with 47 goals, overtaking Weah's record.[68][69] He finished the season as top scorer with 26 goals, to be the first African to achieve this feat.[70]

2023–24: Contract renewal

On 19 August 2023, Osimhen opened the regular season with Napoli by scoring a brace against newly promoted Frosinone in a 3–1 victory.[71] A hamstring injury during Nigeria's 2–2 friendly draw to Saudi Arabia on 16 October 2023 caused him to miss four regular season games and two Champions League group stage matches.[72] He returned on 25 November 2023 and assisted Eljif Elmas' winning goal in a 2–1 victory over Atalanta.[73] Osimhen scored his first goal of the 2023–24 Champions League campaign in the final group stage match in a 2–0 victory over Braga on 12 December 2023, securing Napoli's progression to the knockout stages over the Portuguese side.[74]

On 23 December 2023, Osimhen extended his contract with Napoli until 2026, with a new release clause set at €130 million.[75] Later the same day, Osimhen was sent off with a second yellow card against Roma with the score at 1–0 in Roma's favor, and Napoli would go on to lose 2–0 following a goal by Romelu Lukaku. This meant that he would not be able to play in the last game of the season before his international call-up for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.[76] On 28 February 2024, he scored a hat-trick in a 6–1 away win over Sassuolo, thus becoming the third player to score at least ten goals in Serie A in four consecutive seasons at Napoli, following Diego Maradona and Attila Sallustro.[77]

International career

Osimhen was a member of the Nigeria under-17 team that won the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile.[78] He scored 10 goals in seven games at the tournament and won the Golden Boot and Silver Ball awards.[79] His performances also earned him the CAF Youth Player of the Year award in 2015.[80]

Osimhen made his official senior debut for Nigeria in a 2–0 defeat against South Africa on 10 June 2017.[81] He missed out on Nigeria's 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign after his inconsistent season at Wolfsburg.[31] Following a successful start to his loan spell at Charleroi, he was recalled by Gernot Rohr for the November 2018 international break,[82] starting their friendly win over Uganda.[33]

In March 2019, Osimhen was released from the Super Eagles squad to represent the Nigerian U23 side as they were two goals down against their Libyan opponent. He scored three goals in the return match against Libya in Asaba.[83]

Osimhen was listed in coach Gernot Rohr's 25-man provisional list for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Egypt[84] and was further listed in the final list for the tournament.[85][86] In the match for third place, he replaced the injured Odion Ighalo at half-time in the team's 1–0 victory over Tunisia.[87] He played a total of 45 mins at the tournament.[88]

The Super Eagles ended the 2021 AFCON qualifiers on a high, beating Lesotho 3–0.[89] However, Osimhen missed the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations supposedly due to COVID‑19 as claimed by his club. This claim provoked a response from a sport lawyer in Nigeria who wrote to express his dismay to the alleged intention of Osimhen's club side, Napoli, to deprive Nigeria the services of their star striker.[90] The Napoli owner, Aurelio De Laurentiis, angered many Africans, when he said he would no longer sign African players unless they agreed to sign a waiver to not participate in the AFCON.[91]

Osimhen started the qualification for the 2023 AFCON qualifiers in sparkling form helping Nigeria win both of their first two matches. Osimhen netted a goal against Sierra Leone and another four goals in a 10–0 win against São Tomé and Príncipe. Osimhen's super hat-trick, was his first senior international hat-trick for the Super Eagles.[92] In the reverse fixture played at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo on 10 September 2023, Osimhen scored his second international hat-trick in Nigeria's 6–0 win against São Tomé and Principe, finishing the 2023 AFCON qualifiers as top scorer with 10 goals.[93][94]

In December 2023, he was called up for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast.[95] He netted a goal in the opening match against Equatorial Guinea which ended in a 1–1 draw.[96]

Player profile

Style of play

 
Osimhen scoring a goal for Lille in 2019

Osimhen is known for his explosive pace, strong aerial ability, and clinical finishing in front of goal. His speed and agility make him a constant threat to opposition defenses, allowing him to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. Osimhen is a right-footed centre-forward known for his presence, athleticism, strength, directness, runs into space,[97] eye for goal and linkup play. At 185 cm, he has good holdup play. He also relies on pace to beat opponents.

Osimhen's physicality and ability to hold up the ball make him an effective target man, capable of bringing others into play and contributing to the build-up of attacking moves. His composure in front of goal and ability to convert chances from various positions make him a valuable asset for his teams.

In addition to his goal-scoring prowess, Osimhen's work rate and willingness to press opponents make him an active contributor to his team's defensive efforts.

Overall, Osimhen's playing style is characterized by a combination of speed, strength, and technical ability, making him a formidable presence on the field.[98]

Osimhen is regarded as one of the best centre-forwards in European football. He has been compared to fellow young strikers Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland, Alexander Isak and Dušan Vlahović. Opta Analyst wrote: "Among that early-prime age group, Victor Osimhen is arguably near the top".[99] His manager at Napoli, Luciano Spalletti, described him as "such a great striker"[100] and "the complete package".[101] In December 2022, Francesco Totti called him "the best striker in Serie A".[102] In January 2023, Romelu Lukaku described him as "the best striker".[103] Fellow Nigerian forward Odion Ighalo hailed him as "the future of Nigerian football".[104] After Osimhen scored in Napoli's 2–1 win over Roma in January 2023, former Brazil and Napoli striker Careca said: "In that goal, I saw something similar to Pelé".[105]

Osimhen has named Didier Drogba as one of his influences.[106]

Personal life

Osimhen is a Christian.[107] He has stated that he has drawn inspiration from Sadio Mané, who helps his community in Senegal, and has said he wants to help disabled people throughout Africa.[108] Osimhen announced the birth of his first child, a daughter named Haly, born October 2022.[109]

Career statistics

Club

As of match played 7 April 2024[110]
Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League National cup[a] League cup[b] Continental Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
VfL Wolfsburg 2016–17 Bundesliga 2 0 0 0 1[c] 0 3 0
2017–18 12 0 1 0 13 0
Total 14 0 1 0 1 0 16 0
Charleroi (loan) 2018–19 Belgian Pro League 25 12 2 1 9[d] 7 36 20
Lille 2019–20 Ligue 1 27 13 3 1 3 2 5[e] 2 38 18
Napoli 2020–21 Serie A 24 10 3 0 3[f] 0 0 0 30 10
2021–22 27 14 0 0 5[f] 4 32 18
2022–23 32 26 1 0 6[e] 5 39 31
2023–24 19 12 1 0 6[e] 2 0 0 26 14
Total 102 62 5 0 20 11 0 0 127 73
Career total 168 87 11 2 3 2 25 13 10 7 217 111
  1. ^ Includes DFB-Pokal, Belgian Cup, Coupe de France, Coppa Italia
  2. ^ Includes Coupe de la Ligue
  3. ^ Appearance in Bundesliga relegation play-offs
  4. ^ Appearances in Belgian Pro League European play-offs
  5. ^ a b c Appearances in UEFA Champions League
  6. ^ a b Appearances in UEFA Europa League

International

As of match played 11 February 2024[111]
Appearances and goals by national team and year
National team Year Apps Goals
Nigeria 2017 2 0
2018 1 0
2019 7 4
2020 1 1
2021 8 5
2022 4 5
2023 5 5
2024 7 1
Total 35 21
Scores and results list Nigeria's goal tally first, score column indicates score after each Osimhen goal.
List of international goals scored by Victor Osimhen
No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 10 September 2019 Dnipro-Arena, Dnipro, Ukraine   Ukraine 2–0 2–2 Friendly
2 13 November 2019 Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, Nigeria   Benin 1–1 2–1 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualification
3 17 November 2019 Setsoto Stadium, Maseru, Lesotho   Lesotho 3–1 4–2 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualification
4 4–1
5 13 November 2020 Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City, Nigeria   Sierra Leone 2–0 4–4 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualification
6 30 March 2021 Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos, Nigeria   Lesotho 1–0 3–0 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualification
7 7 September 2021 Estádio Municipal Adérito Sena, Mindelo, Cape Verde   Cape Verde 1–1 2–1 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification
8 10 October 2021 Limbe Stadium, Limbe, Cameroon   Central African Republic 2–0 2–0 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification
9 13 November 2021 Stade Ibn Batouta, Tangier, Morocco   Liberia 1–0 2–0 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification
10 16 November 2021 Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos, Nigeria   Cape Verde 1–0 1–1 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification
11 9 June 2022 Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, Nigeria   Sierra Leone 2–1 2–1 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualification
12 13 June 2022 Stade Adrar, Agadir, Morocco   São Tomé and Príncipe 1–0 10–0 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualification
13 4–0
14 8–0
15 9–0
16 18 June 2023 Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex, Monrovia, Liberia   Sierra Leone 1–0 3–2 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualification
17 2–0
18 10 September 2023 Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, Nigeria   São Tomé and Príncipe 1–0 6–0 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualification
19 4–0
20 5–0
21 14 January 2024 Alassane Ouattara Stadium, Abidjan, Ivory Coast   Equatorial Guinea 1–1 1–1 2023 Africa Cup of Nations

Honours

Napoli

Nigeria U17

Nigeria

Individual

Orders

References

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External links