Belfast Telegraph

Quique Sanchez Flores happy for Watford's Odion Ighalo to play at Olympics

Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores will not stand in Odion Ighalo's way if he decides to represent Nigeria at this summer's Olympic Games.

Reports have suggested that Nigeria want Ighalo to be part of their squad for the tournament in Rio, and Flores has insisted he will let the 26-year-old go if he wants to despite the fact that it could disrupt his pre-season preparations.

The Hornets boss told a press conference: "It depends on the players also. Some players want to go to the Olympic games, other players prefer to rest.

"It depends, but finally if the decision of the player is that he wants to go, I am happy."

Former Udinese frontman Ighalo has enjoyed a superb first season in the Barclays Premier League, where he has scored 14 goals as well as one in the FA Cup, and his contribution to his club's efforts to retain its top-flight status has not gone unnoticed.

Indeed, he has been linked with a summer move to Arsenal, something which has come as no surprise to his manager.

Flores said: "Speculation about Ighalo is very normal. He has been one of the best strikers of the season, so it's very normal."

Ighalo, who has scored just twice in his last 10 games, has formed a deadly partnership with Troy Deeney, although he too has endured something of a barren spell in recent weeks.

Deeney's double in a 2-1 league win at Crystal Palace on February 13 ended a six-game wait for a goal, although Flores is adamant he was never unduly concerned.

He said: "I know that other players need to support the goals of he and Ighalo, of course. We have a very good second line with [Etienne] Capoue, with [Almen] Abdi, with [Jose Manuel] Jurado, with other players who can score.

"But the situation is that we create attempts, but the players who score are Ighalo and Deeney. But the most important thing is that when we finish the match - we shoot maybe 12, 14 times and have other players shooting also, but the evidence is it is Ighalo and Deeney."

Meanwhile, Flores confirmed that Swedish defender Joel Ekstrand, who has not played for the club since suffering a cruciate ligament injury in March last year, has returned to training.

He said: "Joel Ekstrand is training with us. He has had a very serious injury, he has completed his recovery and he is a very good player, so we are supporting him."

However, the Spaniard declined to confirm or deny reports that Watford have beaten Inter Milan and Paris St Germain to the signature of Mali Under-17s international striker Aly Malle.

Flores said: "You need to wait until there is news because there are always rumours. But we have to think well because the future is important. But now we are focussing on the present."


From Belfast Telegraph