By Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor
Ikechukwu Uche is a revered name in Nigerian football circles because more often than not – when the national team scores, his name is most probably the one in the goal scorer’s column over the last three years.
During this time, he has become the arrow head for goals for the Super Eagles whether it was under Samson Siasia and now under Stephen Keshi.
The interesting theme to this light-skinned striker’s pedigree is that he has been no more than average for all the teams he has played for in Europe.
For someone who transferred to Europe at a very young age and sufficiently suffused with the football talent to succeed, the report card for this Nigerian striker will have to be marked as abysmal to say the least.
But immediately he transforms into the green uniform of the Nigerian team, he soars like the eagle for which the team is named. You then have to surmise that there is either something in the Nigerian water he gets to drink when he enters the space or he is just a bad traveller.
Though his demeanour on the pitch is that of a predator, Ik, does not like giving interviews or going clubbing as is the norm for other overseas based footballers.
His quiet mien has made him the darling of both local and foreign coaches and what he is not able to say he more than makes up with his goals.
For all the 12 seasons, he has spent abroad – from Racing Ferrol to Recreativo Huelva to Real Zaragoza intermingled with stints with Granada and eventually, now in the Segunda with Villarreal, Ik Uche has played 275 games and scored 67 times. That is an average of less than six goals a season.For a striker who then boasts of 17 goals in 37 appearances for his country – there is just no basis for comparison; it seems it is another Uche at club level, whom we can call Jekyyl and the one that regularly gets on target for the Super Eagles as Hyde – a case of double personality.
Yes, he has been the victim of so many muscular injuries that may be attributed to the fact that his growth spurts were not well managed to the fact that at a point in his career, he was carrying too much muscles in his thighs.
So many fans believe that his absence through injury from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa partially caused the team’s demise in the group stage as his four goals had more than helped the team to qualify for the Mundial. And fans will also remember that in the game against Guinea last year when the team needed an equaliser, he rose from the bench to deliver.
And over the course of the new administration of the Eagles under Keshi, he has more than delivered and his average is closer to one per game. Against Liberia in the first leg, he scored the penalty that gave the Nigerian team the lead so everything points to him being the main goal threat of the Eagles.
And once again, this Saturday, Nigerian football fans will be looking up to their talisman for goals against the Lone Star of Liberia. There's is a 50% probability that he will deliver – even though you cannot say the same when he is playing for Villarreal.