Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Kelechi Iheanacho will miss the Olympics because new Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola wants him to stay at the English club for pre-season training instead of .
The 19-year-old striker was selected in Nigeria’s 35-man provisional squad for the football tournament at next month’s Games in Rio de Janeiro.
That was despite the fact that City had written to the Nigerian Football Federation to tell them that Iheanacho would not be available, and had a letter back acknowledging that decision.
The forward has indicated that he would love to play at the Games given the chance, but his club have made clear that their stance has not changed.
Going to Brazil for the Olympics for the football tournament, which takes place between August 3 and 20, would have resulted in him missing the opening weeks of the Premier League season.
City believe that he will benefit more from spending a full pre-season working with Guardiola as he seeks to establish himself as a first-team regular at the Etihad Stadium.
Iheanacho, who joined City from the Taye Academy in his native Nigeria in January 2014, broke into the club’s senior side last season and scored 14 goals in 35 appearances in all competitions.
His displays have seen him move above Wilfried Bony, the experienced Ivory Coast international, in the pecking order.
Speaking at a fan event at City’s Academy Stadium, Iheanacho said: “If your country wants you to play for them you surely have to do so, but it’s not up for me to decide.
“I don’t know if they have decided – my team and my country, I don’t know if they have concluded or not.”
City have indicated that they are standing by their decision to keep Iheanacho in England during the Games.
Iheanacho will meet Guardiola at training on Monday morning, and says he is happy to play anywhere for the new manager.
He said: “Everyone knows Pep and what he can do. I think he is a great manager and I think he will bring many things to this team.
“I can play number 9, 10, 7 and 11 as well so I can play in different positions. Anywhere I can fit in, I will play.
“I am happy with what I did last season and now I have to work really hard this season to get something for the team and work for the team as well.”
Iheanacho faces heavy competition to win a regular place in City’s line-up, with new £13.8m signing Nolito able to play in attack, as well as Bony and first-choice forward Sergio Aguero.
But the teenager believes that he can persuade Guardiola to give him a chance as City seek to improve on last season’s fourth-place finish.
He said: “Everyone wants to start games and work hard. I need to work extra hard and I will get a chance. It will be a big season for me, and for every player.”
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