Mourinho makes Osimhen-Drogba comparison, cup king Kelechi strikes again

Jose Mourinho balanced praise with advice for Victor Osimhen after Napoli beat AS Roma in the Serie A. Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Jose Mourinho bestowed some glowing praise upon Victor Osimhen this weekend, as the Nigeria sensation's wondergoal helped Napoli past AS Roma, although the Portuguese coach also had some words of warning for Serie A's leading scorer.

Another Nigerian, Kelechi Iheanacho, maintained his superb FA Cup goalscoring record, although there wasn't as much joy for Mohamed Salah, who came in for criticism after Liverpool's limp exit from the tournament.

Osimhen continued his spectacular season with league strike number 14 this weekend, as he netted a goal of the year contender to open the scoring against Roma.

The striker brought a Khvicha Kvaratskhelia cross down on his chest in the 17th minute, set himself up with a deft touch on his knee, and then slammed home a sensational volley at the back post to set the tone for another Napoli victory.

The win takes them up to 53 points after 20 matches, having won 17 games so far this term. The Partenopei -- seeking a first Scudetto since 1990 -- are now 13 points clear of second-placed Internazionale, and it would take a remarkable collapse for them to miss out on the Italian crown.

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Despite seeing his side eclipsed by Osimhen and Napoli, Mourinho reserved some immense praise for the striker after the match -- while also sounding a note of warning.

The Portuguese coach has worked with arguably the two best African strikers in the history of the game, transforming Didier Drogba's career at Chelsea before utilising Samuel Eto'o effectively as Inter won the Champions League in 2010.

With Drogba, he also witnessed a remarkable talent, but one who -- initially at least after arriving in England -- let himself down by going to ground too readily.

"He is of the same level as Drogba, but Didier didn't dive," Mourinho told journalists, appearing to forget the reputation the Ivory Coast great cultivated during his early months in the Premier League. "If Victor changes, then OK, I'd buy him if I was at a club with a lot of money.

"However, if he does go to England one day, he needs to change, because in Italy they put up with this sort of behaviour, whereas in the Premier League, they'd come down hard on him."

Manchester United have been linked with a big-money move for the 24-year-old, who has been named alongside Harry Kane as a potential target for the Red Devils during the summer transfer window.

"I told him that he scored a wonderful goal and needs to stop diving so much," Mourinho added.

"His goal was fantastic, he did the same thing when we met earlier this season, so he's a fantastic player -- but he mustn't dive."

Goal number 14 -- coming in only 16 matches -- keeps Osimhen on course to become the first African player to claim the Capocannoniere, the Serie A Golden Boot, a feat that neither Eto'o nor George Weah managed during their successful stays in the Italian game.

Hot on Osimhen's tail, however, is compatriot Ademola Lookman, who took his own tally to the season to 12 with Atalanta's second in their 2-0 victory over Sampdoria to make it a Nigerian one-two at the top of the Italian scoring charts.

His goal was proof of his confidence this term, as Lookman duped poor Nicola Murru with a sleight of foot, before firing low beyond Emil Audero.

It's hard to pick out too many more overachievers across Europe's major leagues this season than Lookman, who had never played in Italy before signing for Atalanta during the offseason, and had never before netted more than six goals during a single league campaign.

He's doubled that tally -- registered with Leicester City in 2021-22 -- in just 19 matches, and continues to thrive while some of La Dea's other attacking options struggle to find their verve.

The forward has now scored seven in his last four games, and had a hand in 15 goals in his last 13 matches in all competitions.

His 12 league goals have directly contributed to 70 percent of Atalanta's points this season, with the once wayward talent finally appearing to have found an environment in which his undoubted talents can flourish.

"I've put more focus into the things that are more important, it's working for me," Lookman told DAZN. "Different circumstances, different situations... I'm in a good moment, scoring goals, helping the team.

"It's just the way it is."

With Lookman looking unstoppable at present, Atalanta's Champions League hopes look healthy -- they're currently fourth on 38 points, level with third-placed Lazio.

Over in England, the FA Cup Fourth Round brought joy and anguish for two of Africa's biggest stars.

Unlike his fellow Super Eagles Lookman and Osimhen, Iheanacho has struggled for minutes, goals and form this season -- contributing just one Premier League goal and seeming not to have the faith of Brendan Rodgers -- as Leicester City toil in the wrong half of the table.

However, in the FA Cup, he remains a sensation, with no one scoring more goals in the competition since Iheanacho made his bow for Manchester City.

His winner against Midlands rivals Walsall -- firing in a deflected effort off Brandon Comley -- broke the lower-league side's resolve after Youri Tielemans had missed a penalty, and also took his tally to seven in his last seven in the FA Cup, and 17 in 23 games overall.

He earned Rogers' praise in the aftermath, although it remains to be seen if his second goal in all competitions since early September will translate to more minutes in the Prem.

"[Iheanacho] made a great impact," the Northern Irish coach told journalists. "Some players just have that.

"It's probably because he's featured more [in the FA Cup], maybe when's he not been a starter for so many teams, then he gets his chance in the FA Cup and takes it and scores.

"For us, he's made a great impact in the competition since I've been here," Rodgers closed.

"I thought he came into the game today with a real fire in his belly to perform and did really well to create the goal for us."

Iheanacho, for his part, is clearly proud of his long-standing love affair with the oldest club competition in the world game.

"I've always loved this competition and the competition loves me, so I'm happy," he told Leicester's official TV station. "It's a good game to get through to the next round, so we're happy.

"For me, it's no different in terms of the way I approach games, the way I play and all that. Any time I get my chance, I get on there and do my job."

The Foxes will now meet either Blackburn Rovers or Birmingham City at home in the Fifth Round.

One side who weren't in the hat for the next round is Liverpool, whose miserable season deteriorated further with a 2-1 defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion.

Despite assisting Harvey Elliot for Liverpool's opener, it was a testing outing for Salah, who struggled to get much change from Lewis Dunk and Pervis Estupinan down the Seagulls' left side.

Before his assist, he'd been thwarted by a Dunk clearance on the line, had a shot blocked by Adam Webster, and fired wide after being played in by Elliot, while his relationship with Cody Gakpo -- while promising -- is still at an early stage of its development.

Liverpool, and Salah, are still yet to truly replace Sadio Mane, whose guile, determination, and ability to change gear in an instant all served the Reds tremendously in the past, particularly when obstacles such as this presented themselves.

"Usually, you have a real basis you build on and that is what we don't have," Jurgen Klopp told journalists, when asked if Salah is struggling amidst Liverpool's difficulties.

"That is not so difficult to explain. Our forward line was a well-drilled machine. With the front three [of Salah, Mane, Roberto Firmino], everyone was clear what we were doing," he added. "Everyone suffers [when it's not well-drilled], that is clear."

Also in the FA Cup, Senegalese defender Amadou Salif Mbengue was on the losing side as Reading were eliminated by Manchester United, but did at least find the net at Old Trafford by heading in a 72nd-minute consolation in a 3-1 defeat.