Pep Guardiola joked earlier this season that Kelechi Iheanacho needed a new coach if he wanted more game time. Nine months since the Nigerian committed to Manchester City until 2021, it is increasingly difficult to find a good reason for him not to take his manager’s advice.
His selection in the Manchester derby back in September appeared a significant moment in his career initially. He scored in the 2-1 win to end United’s 100 per cent record and earn a start in the next league game against Bournemouth, which he also scored in.
Just three more starts have followed though, the last of those coming on January 2. From being one of the most exciting prospects, the arrival of Gabriel Jesus has more or less shunted Iheanacho out of matchday squads completely and he looks certain to end this season with fewer starts and goals than last year, when it felt like Manuel Pellegrini was holding him back.
The warning signs were even there for the derby game in September when the manager suggested his selection was more about the symbolism of a striker and that Iheanacho was “the only striker we had in that moment”.
In January, his absence from squads was explained by saying City hadn’t created many chances “for this kind of player”.
In short, Guardiola doesn’t value what the 20-year-old can offer. Better for the player to take his talent elsewhere to a team that does suit his playing style. A clinical finisher, Iheanacho should not have a problem finding that – German high-flyers Hoffenheim are one of the clubs said to be interested that could offer him Champions League football next season.
For City’s part, they should make a handsome profit on a player who appeared on their 2014 tour and bolster their funds for what is expected to be another busy and expensive transfer window. It will be a shame if Iheanacho does leave, but it is surely best for all parties.