Liverpool’s Taiwo Awoniyi has come to the defence of Kelechi Iheanacho following the latter’s exclusion from Nigeria’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations squad.
The Leicester City attacker was one of two players – the other being defender Semi Ajayi – cut from manager Gernot Rohr’s final list of 23 for the AFCON in Egypt.
Awoniyi was a teammate of Iheanacho in Nigeria’s team in the 2013 U-17 World Cup and believes the former Manchester City man has suffered in his career due to being played out of position.
''For me, Iheanacho was pushed to play as a centre-forward because of his goal rate and how confident he is in scoring goals,” Awoniyi is quoted by All Nigeria Soccer.
''I have played with him a lot of times, when I play with him he's best played as a number 10, behind the striker.
“This is where he played when we played together, all of a sudden he became a centre-forward and it has to do with what they discovered in him in Manchester City and Leicester City.
''When he was at Manchester City before he was moved to a number 9, he played the same position and he did great things for the team.''
On Iheanacho's goal-scoring troubles, Awoniyi said: “In Leicester City they are not giving him game time, if a player is not playing there is no way you can get the best out of him, there is no way he can score goals when he doesn't play.
''It has to do with the team not giving him a chance to prove himself. I believe he is one of the great talents in the country, there is no doubt about that.”