Odion Ighalo, Ademola Lookman in line for Nigeria call up for next round of World Cup qualifiers

Former Manchester United and Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo is mulling a return to international football after a fresh approach by Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr and NFF president Amaju Pinnick, Ighalo told ESPN.

The forward, who retired after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations where he finished as top scorer, said he has not made any decision yet despite being contacted by both officials.

"They have been in contact with me about the possibility of coming back, Amaju and coach," Ighalo told ESPN. "I don't know. I have not said yes or no. I haven't made any decision concerning the national team."

It is not the first time Ighalo, who has 16 goals in 35 appearances for Nigeria, has been approached by Nigeria to come out of retirement. Rohr has made no secret of his admiration for the Al Shabab striker, who is enjoying good form in Saudi Arabia, with scored eight goals from nine appearances so far this season.

In March, Ighalo also said he was considering the offer and would make a decision, but in June he said in an interview he saw no need to come back with the team's young players doing well.

However, Rohr told ESPN there is a possibility Ighalo could be included in the squad for next month's final round of group stage games for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Liberia and Cape Verde.

"The final list is not made yet," Rohr said. "But there is a chance to get him back. I put him in the bigger provisional list for the next games because he is very important with his experience and his goals and I hope he can come back, but we will see. He has still ambition to help his country."

Rohr's confidence stems from his conversations with the striker, who he convinced to play on after the 2018 World Cup when the player wanted to retire in the wake of some virulent criticism from the fans.

Ighalo did play on and went on to not only finish as top scorer in Afcon qualifying with seven goals, but his five goals in Egypt also saw him emerge as the tournament's Golden Boot.

Rohr remains a big fan of the forward, and has always insisted he would like him back in the squad despite a surfeit of attacking options at his disposal.

Rohr added: "We have a lot of good strikers, young strikers like Osimhen who is number one for us. But we don't have any one like Ighalo. He feels everything, he can smell everything. He is special and with his experience, he can help us and help the young ones."

NFF president Pinnick has also spoken with the forward, telling ESPN: "I had a long conversation with Odion Ighalo.

"Personally, I believe we need experience in our attack to combine with our energetically youthful (Victor) Osimhen, (Paul) Onuachu, Kelechi (Iheanacho) et al. Odion's body language is very positive. We are also in touch with his agents and club."

Since Ighalo's departure, Napoli striker Victor Osimhen has picked up the slack, leading the line for Nigeria and scoring 10 goals in 19 appearances. Rohr was quick to add that Ighalo's return would not affect Osimhen's position.

"Osimhen still is our number one, but if Ighalo will come back, his maturity and his experience will help Osimhen, will help the others and will help our team," Rohr said.

The news of a potential return for Ighalo has naturally led to some backlash, with questions about why a team top heavy with forwards would need another when injuries have wiped out the midfield and the team struggles to move the ball around.

Rohr admitted that was an issue, but said it was also under consideration: "We didn't have our midfielders in the last games, true. And we didn't score in Lagos too. So it is important to look at everything."

There was also movement on another front for the Super Eagles, with Pinnick also saying that Leicester City winger Ademola Lookman could also be in Nigeria colours in short order.

This comes after the NFF boss paid a visit to some Super Eagles players while on family vacation in the UK, stopping at the homes of Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo and announcing that Lookman was "excited" to play for Nigeria.

"Ademola Lookman is excited about fighting for a shirt in the Super Eagles," Pinnick said. "He loves Nigeria, By His Grace we shall conclude the switch soon."

The 24-year-old has represented England at cadet level and is currently on loan from RB Leipzig.