Pep Guardiola is arguably one of the biggest coaches in world football following his trophy-laden career so far and has probably taken some of the biggest decisions along the line but he is faced with a major one with Nigerian youngster Kelechi Iheanacho in his Manchester City team.
The former FIFA U-17 World Cup MVP had a remarkable breakthrough year for the Citizens in the 2015/16 season where his goal per game ratio was higher than that of football’s most established players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandoski, and Edinson Cavani. Read Also: New Year's Eve showdown: Coutinho desperate to face Nigerian
But it was because former manager Manuel Pellegrini trusted Iheanacho and it was no surprise that his goal on the final day of last season against Swansea City ensured that Manchester City picked the last UEFA Champions League qualifying spot ahead of their neighbours United.
However, that same trust seems to be missing at the moment with Pep Guardiola who seems to prefer other options in attack even in the absence of the club’s topscorer Sergio Aguero who is currently serving a four-match ban for a wicked lunge on Chelsea defender David Luiz during the 3-1 defeat to the Blues at the Etihad.
On Pep Guardiola's arrival at Manchester City, Iheanacho was the only Manchester City senior player around on the unveiling day alongside new signing IIkay Gundogan because the Nigerian had snubbed the 2016 Rio Olympics to help the Spaniard integrate into English football and it paid off with the Citizens winning 10 out of 10 at the start of the season.
Guardiola immediately sanctioned the contract extension of the 19-year-old Nigerian which keeps him at the Etihad until 2021.
“Kelechi is a natural goalscorer,” the former Barcelona manager told the club’s official website. “I knew about him before, but I’ve been really impressed with him since I arrived.
"I like his personality, his attitude, his ability – we hope to help him reach the highest level and to realise his full potential.”
Those words above haven’t been marched with any action or conviction that he is ready to entrust the Nigerian with more responsibilities at the club. Fortunately for Iheanacho, he has delivered anytime he is called upon, scoring five goals in his 15 matches for the team so far.
In the month of November Iheanacho featured in only one game against Middleborough where the Citizens played out a 1-1 home draw and he only reappeared for the team as a substitute in the defeat against Chelsea on December 3.
With Aguero out of the picture, one expected that Guardiola will hand Iheanacho the task of leading the City attack like he did in the away win against Manchester United in the earlier parts of the season but the Spaniard doesn’t seem to trust the 19-year-old enough.
Against Leicester City last weekend, he gave the Nigerian a rare start but the Foxes were on rampage as they scored three first half goals but in the second half instead to help the youngster upfront with his substitutions, the former Bayern Munich manager yanked him off and still lost the game 4-2 with Jamie Vardy grabbing a hat-trick. Iheanacho is a special young talent and has the right temperament to deal with the high demands of modern football
. Aguero’s absence is huge loss because he is perhaps the best forward in the premier league alongside Diego Costa but Guardiola should give the Nigerian his trust to thrive on and he will see his Manchester City side fly.MORE | Why Iheanacho was ‘mad’ during Chelsea game