Ligue 1 side LOSC Lille have a track record of producing and signing underappreciated young players, and turning them into some of Europe’s most sought-after.
Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen is the latest to tread that path. The 21-year-old has scored 17 times for Lille this season and is attracting interest from top clubs, a list which reportedly includes Chelsea.
Osimhen has been compared to Blues legend Didier Drogba, for the obvious reasons that they are both African and made their names in Ligue 1.
Drogba made the leap from Olympique de Marseille to Stamford Bridge at the age of 26, while Osimhen remains just 21. Lille may not be able to hold onto their nascent forward for too much longer, particularly if a sizeable offer comes in.
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Former Lille player Eden Hazard joined Chelsea from the Ligue 1 club as a 21-year-old and hit the ground running in England. The Belgian, who emerged from the French club’s youth ranks, spent five seasons in northern France, scoring 20 Ligue 1 goals in his final campaign.
A year earlier, Newcastle United signed a 25-year-old Yohan Cabaye from Lille. Cabaye had spent seven seasons with the first team having joined the club at the age of 12.
For years, Lille has acted as a springboard to some of Europe’s best players in their early careers, providing them with a platform to showcase their ability in a top five league.
Nicolas Pépé is the most recent high-profile player to utilise the club as a stepping stone. The Ivorian joined Arsenal for £72m in the summer, blossoming at Lille after disappointing with Angers SCO.
Osimhen spent time in Belgium with RSC Charleroi last season, scoring 19 league goals before being poached by his current side. Given his rise in France, it seems unlikely he will spend more than one or two seasons at the club.