Former Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo has left Saudi Arabian side Al Shabab for city rivals Al Hilal on an 18-month deal as the Nigerian seeks continental success with the reigning Asian champions.
The 32-year-old, who is currently the leading goalscorer in the Saudi Pro League season with 12 goals, had only joined Al Shabab last February.
Top scorer at the last African Cup of Nations in 2019, Ighalo returned from international retirement last year and was named in the Nigeria squad for this year’s ongoing tournament in Cameroon, but Al Shabab refused to release him.
“I had a great time with Al Shabab and I thank the club management and fans for the love and support,” Odion Ighalo said.
“It’s a big honour to get a chance to play for the country’s most successful club in Al Hilal.
“To play in the Asian Champions League against some of the continent’s finest teams is also a huge attraction and I really can’t wait.”
Saudi Arabia’s most successful club with 17 league titles, Al Hilal are the current domestic champions and the holders of the Asian Champions League title.
Ighalo, whose career has taken him to Norway, Italy, Spain, England and China, is keen to add to the club’s silverware.
“The ambition remains the same, which is to help the club to success in every competition we compete in,” he added.
“I have enjoyed moving to Saudi and every day here I realised that the league is at a competitive level.”
Ighalo captained his country’s youth side at the Under-20 World Cup in 2009 but then had a six-year wait for his senior debut, which came in an international friendly at home to Uganda in Uyo.
The player endured death threats aimed at his family after failing to score at the 2018 World Cup.
But he produced seven goals to finish top scorer in qualifying for the 2019 Nations Cup, and his five goals and one assist helped Nigeria finish third at the tournament in Egypt.
Ighalo has played at just two tournaments for the West African nation, yet his 16 international goals rank him among the country’s top six scorers.