Super Eagles striker Odion Ighalo has revealed why he turned down a “crazy” offer from a Chinese club in the summer to stay at Watford.
According to WDSport, Ighalo was in Nigeria in June when he received a call out of the blue from his agent, Ladi Salami, informing him that Hebei China Fortune wanted to speak to him about a mind-blowing salary package to join their team coached by former Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona head coach Raddy Antic.
Ighalo, who is the top scoring player in the four tiers of English football in 2015, has spoken previously about the “crazy money” waved under his nose but not before about the background to what would have been a shock transfer.
“My agent called and said they are serious,” Ighalo told WDSport.
“I said, ‘I think they are joking’. He told me the team owner is flying to London to see me and then one morning I saw people from there after training. They offered money to the club and the club asked me if I want to talk to them. I thought about it for three nights, I could not sleep as the money was so crazy. Gino [Pozzo] called me and asked me what did I think about it. I said this was the first day and I have to think about it.”
Ighalo, who revealed he supported Manchester United as a child and wanted to stay in the Premier League to remain in a top league and face the Red Devils.
“I didn’t accept the offer,” said Ighalo. “Money, money, money is not everything. My dream is to play – not just because of money. For my age, I could not just jump into a league like that, it is not as competitive. The excitement and challenge is not enough for a young player. I told Gino I do not want to go and that even if you buy another striker I will stay and fight for my position.
“Some asked me if I was crazy to turn it down. I am happy that I did. This is my life and I will choose how I live it. God didn’t want to me to do it. My mind is here, even though they kept begging me to come, telling me they will offer me whatever I want and to come to China for one week and see. They were still calling me so I stopped taking their calls. I am happy here.”
Ighalo, who scored for Nigeria against arch-rivals Cameroon in a friendly on Sunday, has backed up his claim of not regarding money as everything by giving most of his earnings away.
“I get my salary and I send money to my family and friends,” said Ighalo when asked about his charitable side. “I also have a charity for the less privileged. I send money so they can eat and go to school, and also send money to widows, women who don’t have husbands, around 45 of them. I take care of them every month. My plan is to open an organisation so I can give back to the poor.”
Ighalo lived in poverty when growing up Ajegunle, Lagos, watching his mother work for 17 hours a day selling bottled water and soft drinks.
He added: “I know what it was like when I had nothing,” Ighalo said. “I am not one of the big players in the world but I don’t live outside my limit and I always help people I can afford to. Even if I can afford to help one I will do it. I try to make sacrifice for them as I know how it was when I had nothing, too.”