Super Eagles returnee, Odion Ighalo has revealed why he left the Nigerian team prematurely some years ago.
The Al Shabab striker, spoke while debunking reports that he bribed his way back to the Super Eagles.
Giving update on why he retired two years ago, Ighalo confessed that his premature retirement was fueled by death threats from some Nigerians after he spurned what many pundits called a ‘glorious chance’ to bury the winning goal against Argentina that could have sealed Eagles qualification to the second round.
The 32-year-old striker hanged his international boot in 2019 ostensibly “to concentrate on club football and give younger players a chance.”
The former Manchester United and Watford forward came under heavy criticisms when he missed a goalscoring opportunity to give the Super Eagles’ victory against Argentina at the 2018 World Cup.
Consequently, Super Eagles were eliminated from the mundial, which held in Russia.
The sturdy striker bounced back to become the highest goal scorer at the 2019 AFCON tournament qualifiers as well as tournament top scorer after poaching five goals.
The AFCON tournament was his last active duty for the national team before he announced his retirement.
His sudden return, two years after retirement, has been shrouded in controversy with many raising eyebrow when he made two appearances in Eagles World Cup qualifying rounds.
The goal poacher made his return to the Eagles in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Cape Verde in the 2022 World Cup qualifier.
Ighalo has, however, denied involvement in any shady deal.
The strike responded to allegations of him paying his way back to the team in an interview on NFF TV.
“Before I decided to return, first of all I prayed about it. I spoke to my mum because after the World Cup there was so many things that happened, threat and all that and I said I’m not going back.” He continued
“And one of the reasons I came back is that coach Gernot Rohr was there for me even after the World Cup I was getting death threat and I said I was not going to play again for Nigeria. But he called me and said ‘even the best players in the world miss chances you don’t have to kill yourself because of this, forget about what they are saying, when you come and start scoring the same mouth they use to say bad about you is the same mouth they will use to say good things about you, come I believe in you’.
“He gave me the confidence, I needed him then and he was there for me. So now he’s been calling me messaging me to come back so will I say no to somebody that was there for me. Since I retired he kept calling to know when I will come back. The pressure was too much so I said ok. If he was there for me and he needed me now I have to be there for him told that’s why I’m here.
“Like I said I prayed about it, I talked to my mum, talked to my pastor about it and he asked if I want to go and I said of course, it’s my country it’s a privilege to play for Nigeria. Nobody is going to turn down an invitation to play for Nigeria but the circumstances back then. And my mum said to me ‘my son if you want to go I give you my blessing go God will protect you and guide you’. So I made the decision to come back and I’m happy I’m back,” he said.