Odion Jude Ighalo (born 16 June 1989) is a Nigerian professional footballer who plays for English club Watford and the Nigeria national team as a striker.
Born in Lagos, Ighalo played in his country with Prime F.C. and Julius Berger FC, where he was discovered by FIFA agent Marcelo Houseman who recommended him to Atta Aneke, being subsequently taken on trial by Norway’s Lyn Fotball.
He made his Tippeligaen debut on 16 September 2007 at the age of just 18, scoring in a 2–0 home win against Viking FK. He netted six goals in 13 games in his second year to help his team to the seventh position, and subsequently arose interest from other clubs in the country, with SK Brannreporting Lyn to the Football Association of Norway for unfairness in the negotiation process.
On 30 July 2008 Ighalo signed for Udinese Calcio in Italy, moving alongside teammate Jo Inge Berget and agreeing to a five-year contract. He appeared rarely in Serie A in his debut season, scoring against Cagliari Calcio in a 6–2 home routing four of his five league appearances came as a late substitute.
Ighalo was loaned to Granada CF in the 2009 summer, as part of the partnership agreement between Udinese and the Spaniards. He scored 17 times in his first year (playoffs included) and five in the second, as both seasons ended in promotion; this was interspersed with a brief loan stint back in Italy with A.C. Cesena.
Ighalo continued playing with Granada in the following years, still owned by the Udine side. He played his first La Liga match on 27 August 2011, starting and playing the full 90 minutes in a 0–1 home loss to Real Betis.
Ighalo joined Watford on a season-long loan deal from Udinese, on 29 July 2014. He made his debut for the English club in the first round of the Football League Cup at Stevenage on 12 August, and scored his first goal against Brentford on 30 September by tucking the ball home after his initial penalty was saved by David Button.
On 24 October 2014 Watford terminated Ighalo’s loan, and re-signed him on a permanent deal the same day after Udinese released him from his contract. Exactly three months later, he scored four second half goals and was voted Man of the match in a 7–2 home routing of Blackpool, who led 0–2 at half time; he took his league tally to 14 on 10 February 2015, after netting a brace to help his team come from behind at Brentford to win it 2–1 – his second came through an injury time header.
Ighalo scored in his Premier League debut on 8 August 2015, replacing José Manuel Jurado 16 minutes from time and putting the visitors ahead 2–1 in an eventual 2–2 draw away against Everton for the season opener. He netted twice in a 2–0 home win over West Ham United on 31 October, reaching seven goals for the season and becoming the highest club scorer in the competition after just eleven matches.
On 24 March 2015, after a series of solid performances for Watford, newly appointed Nigeria coach Sunday Oliseh selected Ighalo for the first time, and the latter stated, “I feel good because it is my dream to play for my country”. He gained his first cap two days later, starting in a 0–1 friendly home loss to Uganda.