When Nicolas Pepe returned from his summer holiday and announced his decision to play at a higher level either in Premier League or Serie A where he had suitors, it dawned on LOSC fans that their star player for the last campaign who scored 22 Ligue 1 goals and provided 11 assist would be leaving a vacuum very huge to fill. On the same day Pepe was leaving through the door, the club was ushering in a youngster it was pinning the club’s present and future hope on. It is less than a month since he arrived in the northern part of France, Nigerian international Victor James Osimhen is setting Stade Pierre-Mauroy on fire with his goals.
Victor burst on to the scene at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup hosted in Chile and won by Nigeria. At the end of the group stage, former Ultimate Strikers Academy forward had scored four goals. He scored a hat-trick in the Round of 16 tie and at least a goal in the quarters, semis and final of the tournament. He set a record by scoring in every single match he played and finished the competition as the golden boot winner with 10 goals and two assist. German club VfL Wolfsburg snapped him up immediately and he joined them officially in January 2017. His move to the north of Germany didn’t work out as; he made a slow start to live there managing just a handful of games in one and half season. In the summer of 2018, RSC Charleroi took him on a season-long loan deal to replace Kaveh Rezai. He had a successful loan spell with the Belgian club scoring 20 goals in 36 games and his performances convinced the club to activate their option to acquire. In the same summer, Luis Campos, Lille OSC Sporting Director influenced his club to acquire the services of the Nigerian international to replace departing Pepe. Campos is the man pulling the strings behind the scenes in bringing in some of the best young players to Lille. His success story at AS Monaco is well documented having spent three years at the Principality club before joining Lille in 2017.
Osimhen signed from Charleroi for €12 million and trained with his new club for only five days having featured for Nigeria in the third-place play-off defeat to Tunisia at the Africa Cup of Nations before making his debut in the opening match of the new season. He led the attack in Christophe Galtier’s 4-2-3-1 system and did not need 20 minutes to show his quality and open his goal scoring account. Jose Fonte launched a long ball led into the Nantes half, Osimhen outstripped Nantes Molla Wagué, controlled the ball superbly on his chest and left thigh and then finished across Alban Lafont in the 19th minute. The new Lille striker showed his brilliant awareness, picking up Celik cross and smashing a shot past Lafont at the near post for the winner. In the second home game of the season last night, Osimhen picked up from where he stopped despite starting from bench. He came on in the 19th minute to replace injured Loic Remy and struck his first in the 25th minute. A Loic Perrin error, failing to deal with a cross allowed the 20-year-old striker to control the loose ball and beat the goalkeeper with a good finish. Tunisia’s Zeki Celik provided Osimhen with his second; the full back’s cross found the summer signing inside the penalty area, and after a brilliant first touch, he swivelled before firing past Ruffer leaving him with a return of two brace in two home games.
Four goals in three league appearances, more importantly, four Ligue 1 goals in two matches in front of a packed Stade Pierre-Mauroy says all you need to know about the impact the Nigerian international who arrived from Charleroi has had. At 20, there is so much more to come. On the official Ligue 1 statistics table, Victor leads the way after three matches with four goals ahead of household names in the league like Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele.
Lille will make the 115 minutes train ride to Stade Auguste-Delaune II on Sunday to play Stade Reims in the next league match. Without a doubt, Osimhen should get the nod to lead the attack as he targets his first away league goal and continue his red-hot start to life in France.
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