Having began his professional career with Wolfsburg, Victor Osimhen is now regarded as one of the best strikers on the planet. - © Darius Simka/regios24
Having began his professional career with Wolfsburg, Victor Osimhen is now regarded as one of the best strikers on the planet. - © Darius Simka/regios24

Victor Osimhen, Nigeria's world-beater made in the Bundesliga


Nigeria star Victor Osimhen is now known as one of the most prolific strikers in the planet, and his first footsteps in the professional game were made with Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga.

Now widely regarded as one of the best centre-forwards in the game, Osimhen's progress in recent years has been remarkable. On paper, it looks even more remarkable when you reflect on the 18-year-old's two years spent in Germany, which registered 16 appearances and no goals.

To simply take that period from 2017-19 on face value, however, would be doing both Osimhen and the Wolves a disservice.

The teenager officially arrived at the club on 1 January 2017 - three days after his 18th birthday - as the first player to move from Ultimate Strikers Academy to Wolfsburg after the pair signed as international partners.

An 18-year-old Osimhen took the number 18 shirt when he signed for the Wolves. - imago sportfotodienst

Osimhen had caught the attention of European suitors by blazing a trail through the 2015 FIFA Under-17 World Cup two years earlier, scoring 10 times in seven games as Nigeria lifted the trophy. His signature was a coup for the club.

"At the age of 18, Victor already has a large presence in our attack. He is good going forward and for his size very fast," said then VfL boss Valérien Ismaël after Osimhen's capture.

Osimhen, meanwhile, was excited to be landing in the German top flight, saying: "I want to thank the coach and the club management for this opportunity and the faith in me.

"Wolfsburg is the right place to start my career. Now it is up to me to give something back. I have to work hard and learn."

School was immediately in session for Osimhen, with Wolfsburg struggling that season and a number of niggly injuries keeping him in the treatment room and away from the pitch.

Andries Jonker (l.) gave Osimhen (r.) his Wolfsburg debut against Borussia Mönchengladbach in the penultimate game of the 2016/17 season. - Susanne Huebner

An eventual professional debut came on Matchday 33 of the season, which resulted in a 1-1 draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach. Osimhen made another substitute appearance on the final day of the campaign but couldn't help Wolfsburg from finishing third bottom in the league.

That meant the club had to face Eintracht Braunschweig in the relegation play-off, which they ultimately survived thanks to a pair of 1-0 wins in both legs. Osimhen was a last-minute substitute in the second leg but ended the season with just 46 minutes of football under his belt from three sub appearances.

Coach Andries Jonker, who replaced Ismaël in March 2017, lasted only four games of the season before the club again changed coach by bringing in Martin Schmidt, but he didn't see the season out as Wolfsburg called on the services of Bruno Labbadia in February 2018.

Four coaches in the space of a year made life hard for Osimhen, as did more injuries at the back end of his first full campaign, which resulted in 12 league outings and one more in the DFB Cup.

Jörg Schmadtke was brought in as sporting director in the summer of 2018 and the mixed messaging around Osimhen clearly impacted his decision to move the striker on to Belgian outfit Charleroi on an initial loan - a move he later regretted as Osimhen flourished.

Victor Osimhen (l.) celebrates alongside teammates (l.-r.) Mario Gomez, Max Arnold, Borja Mayoral and Jannes Horn after Wolfsburg survived relegation. - Christian Schroedter

“It wasn’t a good move, in hindsight," said Schmadtke, who now works in a similar role at Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool. "When I came, he [Osimhen] was limping and running in circles. I was told that the strikers we had weren’t good enough."

He added to Kicker magazine: “The most important lesson is that you have to be patient with some transfers... You can't say, 'We'll sign you up, provide board and lodging, and then it'll work.' The importance of patience is sometimes underestimated.”

Osimhen himself later told Sport1 of his time in the Bundesliga: “When I arrived at Wolfsburg, everything was different compared to what I was used to.

“The food, the climate, the language... I thought, ‘Will I get through this?’ But if I had stayed in Nigeria, I wouldn’t have been given a chance like the one they gave me in Germany. It was my first time in Europe.”

It may not have been the perfect stay for Osimhen in Wolfsburg, but life rarely is, and his time in Germany without doubt laid the foundations for the striker to adapt to the rigours of elite-level football and go on to flourish at Napoli since his 2020 move to Italy.