Stars Abroad

Liverpool striker Taiwo Awoniyi has leapt to the defence of Kelechi Iheanacho who has been heavily criticized for his unimpressive performances for club and country.

Iheanacho was one of the two players axed from the Super Eagles travelling party to Egypt for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and Awoniyi believes his former Golden Eaglets teammate was not given enough time to prove himself.

While Awoniyi netted four goals in the 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup, Iheanacho was the competition's Most Valuable Player and he thinks the Taye Academy product is now being played out of position by the club and national team coaches.

''For me, Iheanacho was pushed to play as a centre forward because of his goal-rate and how confident he is in scoring goals,'' said Awoniyi. 

''I have played with him a lot of times, when I play with him he's best played as a number ten, behind the striker. This is where he played when we played together, all of a sudden he became a centre forward and it has to do with what they discovered in him in Manchester City and Leicester City.

''When he was at Manchester City before he was moved to a number nine, he played the same position and he did great things for the team.''

Awoniyi added: ''When teams discover something special in you in terms of goalscoring, they will find a way to push you. 

''The coach is the best person to know where he fits in, but I cannot give advice where he should play. 

''When he played as a number ten with me in the national team, he did a great job and also a number nine, so it depends on what the coach thinks.''

On Iheanacho's goalscoring troubles, Awoniyi said: ''At Leicester City, they are not giving him game time, if a player is not playing there is no way you can get the best out of him, there is no way he can score goals when he doesn't play. 

''It has to do with the team not giving him a chance to prove himself. I believe he is one of the great talents in the country, there is no doubt about that''.

Iheanacho netted 2 goals in 35 appearances for Leicester City last season and has not scored for the national team since he found the net in the memorable 4-2 win vs Argentina in a pre-World Cup friendly in November 2017.

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