Super Eagles Forward Odion Jude Ighalo is a Nigerian professional Footballer who plays for English club side Watford FC. The goal hunter moved from the Spanish League (La Liga) in 2014 after spending five years to Join his current club and is presently the Nigerian International highest goal scorer with 17 goals in the just concluded season.
Jude who kicked off his footballing career at Nigeria League clubs (Prime and Julius Berger)r before moving to Norway in 2007, recently had a tete-a-tete with Faith Irabor News Room where he spoke about his career, goal scoring skills and most importantly his encounter with the two world bests players Lionel Messi and Ronaldo having spent five years playing in the Spanish League them. You will enjoy the exclusive interview session
Congratulations on your achievement in the just concluded Premier League season as the Nigerian highest goal scorer, what would you attribute it to?
First I want to thank God for a successful season with no injuries despite the toughness of the season. I thank God for how everything went, it’s been great and I will say that it’s hard work and God’s Grace. I always believe that when you work hard and believe in yourself, everything will fall in place and am really happy for my achievements in the just concluded season. It’s my first season in the Premier League and I was able to score Seventeen goals, I believe it’s not bad so am happy and I believe I can build more on that for next season.
Would you say you envisaged scoring Seventeen goals in Premiership at the beginning of the season?
Truthfully I did not. Actually I and my Agent sat down to analyse how many goals target we were looking at before the start of the season, and he said it won’t be bad if you can score at least Ten goals in the Premiership since it’s my first season so that was my target and surprisingly before December 2015 I have gotten more than the expected ten goals. That’s why I say am thankful to God for the achievement.
Looking back at where you’re coming from, would you say you’re at the level you’ve always wanted or what are your expectations?
Well the truth is human beings are generally never contented, not even the richest man in the world still wakes up every morning to work for more money. I am grateful to God for where I started and where He has taken me to today but I still want to go higher and achieve more especially because I still have age on my side.
Players usually have dream club and it’s most times Real Madrid or Barcelona considering that they are the two biggest clubs sides in the world at the moment, what’s yours??
(laughs) well only God knows. Am a Watford player at the moment with four more years on my contract and am happy there but you never can tell where destiny is taking you to. I will accept anywhere destiny takes me to because my dream is to play in the Uefa Champions League, all that being said, am happy where I am at the moment.
Which do you think is the best League and best Team in the world because there’s always an unending debate about the Spanish League and Premiership?
For me I will say Premier League is the best team in the world because I have played in the Spanish League and even the Italian League and now am playing the Premier League. I must say there is a huge difference.
But do you know that a lot of people even Football Icons disagree with that because it’s been the Spanish League dominating the Champions League and Europa back to back?
Yeah but you don’t judge in that aspect. The thing is the Premier League unlike the Spanish League is not predictable. For example if you look at the winners of the Premiership in the last four season you’d see that they are not the same and again who would have predicted that a Leicester City would win it at the beginning of the season. The Premier League is a competitive league that watched all over the world.
So what is their problem in the Champions League and Europa, are they jinxed?
Well I don’t know, maybe it’s not just for them though they try to get to the semis or quarter but for me it’s still the best league in the world having played in both League. The organisation and atmosphere of the Premiership is something else, the way they love football is different. Football is like a Religion in Premiership though I have a lot of respect for the Spanish League.
If not Football what would you have been doing?
Well I have always wanted to study Law and be a Lawyer but God does not want that for me and that’s why I choose football.
So what was your first opportunity?
My first opportunity was when I travelled to Norway for trials and I passed the trial in 2007 to be precise. I signed my first professional contract in August 31st 2007 in Oslo before moving to Italy for a year and after then I moved to Spain where I played five years for Granada. Now am in England (Watford FC ) where I just finished my first season. It’s been a great journey and am thankful to God because I still have a lot of years ahead of me and I want to keep working and giving my best.
The fear of every player especially striker is injury, can you recall your most devastating injury experience?
Yeah injury is something that set your target back and also set you back physiologically. I remember three seasons ago while I was still in the Spanish League ( Granada), I had a very serious injury that required surgery on my left knee and also kept me out for close to Five months. It wasn’t easy, sometimes I ask myself if I would still be able to play football because I was using clutches and was in the pain. The craziest part is that you don’t even know when you will start running, so the thought will just come in my mind and I will be asking myself if I can still play football in my life. But talking to loved ones always give encouragement, they will assure me that I can do it as long as I keep on with my rehabilitation.
You’ve played in Granada which means you must have encountered Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who would you say is the best between the two and how would you describe them?
Yes it’s true I have played against Lionel Messi and Ronaldo and for me the two of them are World best respectively. I like Ronaldo because he worked hard for everything he is today while Messi on the other hand is blessed. He is a genius and the things he does in the field are inhuman. He’s not the same as Ronaldo because you can see the hard work he puts into everything even in training. Messi is just blessed.
Who do you think deserves the Balloon D’or judging by the just concluded season though we still have the Copa America and Euros?
If you’re going to choose a Ballon D’or for today as at this moment, I will say its Suarez because he has done marvellously well this season scoring goals and also with many assists, I believe nobody can take it away from him.
As a Watford key player, what are the prospects for next season?
I am aspiring to do more. The truth is Watford did very well in the beginning of the season but nobody was seeing it because of the way Leicester City was playing but our target next season is to get a Europa ticket or at least be among the top ten of the league. We were seventh on the table in the first half the season but the second half wasn’t really okay. Another thing is, next season is really going to be tough because teams are buying players, top coaches are being sacked and everyone is inspired to fight because of the way Leicester won the league.
Back to the National Team, what’s really happening?
Yeah I think the Super Eagles are in a rebuilding process with new faces coming in everyday while some are leaving as well so I think we need time to work together as a team. You can’t just bring a team together and expect them to perform like Barcelona, it’s in possible. We need continuity, we need to have a coach that will stay for at least three years. That way we can see what he’s going to build though I believe we are on the right track. The NFF has done well organising two friendlies even though we are not playing any tournament at the moment. The essence is for us to understands ourselves and do more. I hope they bring more friendly games when we have international off days so that we can keep blending as a team.
Finally what message do you have for the country and lovers of Football who are presently not happy with the team?
Well we don’t need to be told that Nigerians are angry with us, we know it’s not easy. I want them to keep believing in the team though I know it’s not easy because they have been disappointed many times, but they shouldn’t stop believing in the team and praying for us.
It was nice chatting with you