Pro League

Nigeria's Ighalo: How 'bad blood' before Afcon caused Al Shabab exit

20:07 EAT 17/02/2022
Odion Ighalo
The Super Eagles striker switched clubs in Saudi Arabia just before the close of the January transfer window

Odion Ighalo revealed Al Shabab's reluctance to permit him to join Nigeria at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations forced him to leave the club.

Ighalo was included in the Super Eagles' 28-man squad for the tournament in Cameroon but the Saudi club blocked the invitation.

The 2019 Afcon top scorer disclosed Al Shabab did not issue him an exit visa for him to leave the country which eventually made him stay in Saudi Arabia.

The 32-year-old said the club's move forced him to join league rivals and Asian champions Al Hilal on a one-and-a-half-year contract in January.

"I was not happy with them and we decided to part ways because the Nations Cup that I didn't go to caused a lot of bad blood," Ighalo told ESPN.

"Four hours until my flight [to Cameroon], they had not sent me the exit visa. I called the team manager, and he told me they did not get an invitation. But I had a copy of the invitation that was sent because they copied me in the email.

"We had all this back and forth going on, I changed the ticket to the next day, and then the third day, and they still did not send me the visa. At that point I knew they did not want me to go.

"My anger was that they should have told me straight up, not smiling in my face one day and then acting a different way. That is why I decided to leave."

Ighalo, who has scored 12 goals in 18 league matches in the Saudi top-flight this season, is in line to return to Nigeria's squad for their 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifying fixture against Ghana in March.

A week ago, he held a meeting with President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick on the sidelines of the Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi where Al Hilal finished fourth after losing the third-place match to Al Ahly.

The former Manchester United and Watford striker scored his maiden goal for Al Hilal in the global tournament in their 6-1 thrashing of Al Jazira.