Victor Osimhen has completed his much-anticipated transfer from Lille to Serie A side Napoli for an initial club-record €50m fee in the most expensive transfer deal of the summer so far.
The 21-year-old striker has signed a five-year contract with I Partenopei who hold an option to extend the deal by a further year.
A Napoli statement said the Italian side “are delighted to announce the signing of Victor Osimhen from Lille on a permanent transfer”.
It is understood the fee could rise to €81m after a number of performance-related add-ons – which would make Osimhen the most expensive African player ever with the total value of the deal worth €1m more than Arsenal paid Lille for the Ivory Coast international Nicolas Pépé last summer.
“Can’t wait to put on this iconic jersey, thank you for the warm welcome,” Osimhen wrote on Twitter after Napoli confirmed the transfer.
“Mom and dad are proud for sure,” he added, in apparent reference to both his deceased parents.
The move which was confirmed on Friday finally brings an end to a long, drawn-out and complicated affair that saw the Nigerian international fire his former agent last week in order to get negotiations over the line.
While a fee had long been agreed between Lille and Napoli, the fine details of the player’s contract and commission for his representatives were finally concluded on Thursday paving the way for Napoli to confirm the move.
Osimhen became one of the most sought after strikers in Europe on the back of a barnstorming debut season for Lille where he scored 18 goals in all competitions before the French season ended prematurely owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
His excellent showing won him the club’s player of the season award and he was named the recipient of the Marc Vivien Foe Award for the best African player in the league.
He was linked with several English clubs including Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool but Napoli boss Gennaro Gattuso moved all out to secure the player he’d identified as his number one target.
Napoli will be the fourth European club in three years for the peripatetic Osimhen who had stints with Wolfsburg and Sporting Charleroi before joining Lille and he joins compatriots William Troost-Ekong, Ola Aina and Victor Moses in the Italian topflight.
The Neapolitans have broken their transfer record in getting the Nigerian goal-machine as they seek to re-establish themselves near the top of Serie A after falling away this season.
I Partenopei had been closest challengers to perennial champions Juventus in recent seasons finishing behind the Turin club in four of the past seven seasons but are enduring a disappointing campaign that sees them in seventh-place with one game to go.
While Osimhen played in the Champions League in his sole season in France, he’ll have to make do with the second-tier Europa League which Napoli have qualified for by winning the Italian Cup.
The Nigerian, however, will be tasked with scoring the goals that restore Napoli among the European elite.
The move marks yet another triumph for a player who has had his fair bit of rejection and personal strife but never wavered in the face of heartbreaking disappointment.
Born in the Lagos slums of Olusosun in impoverished circumstances, Osimhen who got his first pair of boots as a child from his newspaper-selling elder brother Andrew, has had a long tortured route to stardom.
Starting out at Ultimate Strikers Academy in Lagos, Osimhen had to navigate past father Peter’s disapproval to pursue his passion and earned his big break came when he was selected as part of Emmanuel Amuneke’s Nigeria U17 side to the 2015 Under-17 World Cup in Chile where he set a tournament record with 10 goals to help Nigeria retain the trophy.
A move abroad to Bundesliga side Wolfsburg following shortly after but Osimhen found it hard to adapt and struggled.
A proposed loan move to Belgian side Zulte Waregem to resurrect his career fell through as the club passed up a chance to take him on owing to a failed trial as a result of a bout of malaria.
He eventually found a home at Sporting Charleroi, where he rediscovered his lethal touch in front of goal and finished the season with 20 goals, including one against Zulte Waregem.
A €13m move to Ligue 1 side Lille followed thereafter and after a season in France, Osimhen has now become Napoli’s record signing and Lille’s most expensive export.
In between all these, he also suffered bereavement when he lost both his parents; first his mother and then his father just two months ago.
The orphaned boy who once sold fizzy drinks and sachets of water on the streets of Lagos after school every day is now poised to fill the long-empty shoes of Edinson Cavani and claim a crown once worn by Argentine legend Diego Maradona.