Sunday Jul 21, 2019. 09:00
Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo has announced that he has retired from international football, calling it the “hardest decision” of his career.
The 30-year-old, who ended as top scorer at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations with five goals, has decided to hang up his Super Eagles boots with immediate effect. He scored 16 goals in 35 appearances for the Nigerian national team in a career which spanned just over four years.
“You always dream of playing for Nigeria as a boy and luckily I managed to do it from the under 20s to to the senior side,” said Ighalo.
“But you only need to take the time to reflect and tell yourself the truth, even though it was the hardest decision to make in my life as footballer, I think it is the right one.”
The Shanghai Shenhua forward endured death threats aimed at his family after failing to score at the 2018 World Cup.
But he bounced back to form for Nigeria with seven goals to finish top scorer in the 2019 Nations Cup qualifying, and his five goals and one assist helped the Super Eagles finish third at the tournament in Egypt.
He added: “I feel honoured to finish as top scorer in Egypt with the help of my teammates and coaching staff. Personally, it is also time for me to give way for the promising young players in the national team set up.
“I am extremely proud to have represented my country – and despite not reaching personal and collective ambition as a team – I have really enjoyed every moment.
“I returned to China with an injury and I now plan to focus on my club career.
“I’m going to support the country as a fan now and hopefully return to help my club as soon as possible.”