The announcement on Monday that Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola will replace Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City in the summer caused a stir, with many expecting the new order to bring significant changes to the English club.
Already, there are indications that some players, including Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure, would leave the club at the end of the season due to the change. But for Nigeria forward Kelechi Iheanacho, the coming of Guardiola seems to hold a great promise.
The profile of Iheanacho, who was the Most Valuable Player at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup, has been on the rise lately, with the forward getting more playing time with City’s senior team.
With his hat trick against Aston Villa in the FA Cup last weekend, Iheanacho took his goal tally for City to eight this season – two goals in Capital One Cup, four in the FA Cup and two in the Premier League.
The performance earned him a starting role in their 1-0 win away to Sunderland on Tuesday. He took the place of Kevin De Bruyne, who was ruled out for 10 weeks due to injury.
Iheanacho would also be available when City play Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League round of 16 as he was included in the club’s squad for the knockout stages of the top European competition.
Justifying his decision to include Iheanacho in the Champions League squad, Pellegrini said, “We need Kelechi now because (Wilfried) Bony is also injured and we cannot take the risk that something happens with (Sergio Aguero) and we don’t have a striker for the round of 16. So, Kelechi will be in the Champions League.”
With the inclusion, Pellegrini has shown that Iheanacho has become an important player for City, but ex-Nigeria internationals, Nduka Ugbade and Jonathan Akpoborie, believe the youngster will be even more important to the cub when Guardiola takes over.
The duo told our correspondent on Thursday that Iheanacho has shown himself to be the kind of player the former Barcelona coach would love to work with.
Ugbade, who had worked with Iheanacho as the assistant coach of the Golden Eaglets that won the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup, said the 19-year-old was well-equipped to play for Guardiola, having been groomed with a football philosophy similar to that of the Spanish coach.
I believe Iheanacho will to flourish under Guardiola. He is well equipped. Except for other reasons, Guardiola will like him because what he has learnt is the same philosophy,” Ugbade said.
Guardiola will surely like Iheanacho because it is the same philosophy that Guardiola uses that we used to train him. Guardiola likes players who perform very well and are extremely intelligent. Iheanacho is going to be one of the best Manchester City players under Guardiola.”
Akpoborie, who played for some German clubs including Wolfsburg, said Guardiola’s move to City was a good news for Iheanacho.
“Initially, I was skeptical when he (Iheanacho) chose Manchester City, but now he is developing and he is playing. Guardiola is a coach that works with young players. So it is a welcome development for him that Guardiola is coming,” Akpoborie said.
“I believe when the coach comes next summer, Iheanacho will play even more games. You can see that the young players in Bayern are having more playing time and it was the same when the Guardiola was at Barcelona. He works with young players.”
Akpoborie also said with his ball control, skill and vision, Iheanacho would easily fit into any team in the world if he is given the chance.
He is a skillful player. I don’t think he will have any problem fitting into Guardiola’s team. It is a plus-plus situation for him that Guardiola is coming,” the former Super Eagles forward said.
Meanwhile, Guardiola has said his move to City will not distract him this season in Bundesliga.
The 45-year-old, who has won 19 trophies including six league and two European Cup titles.