Leicester City’s out-of-favour striker Ahmed Musa wrote himself into the World Cup record books by scoring twice to fire Nigeria to their first win in Russia against Iceland.
The 25-year-old produced two virtuoso second-half finishes to keep the Super Eagles in the hunt for a place in the last 16 on Friday.
They would guarantee progress with victory against Argentina in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday and even a draw could take them through if other results go their way.
Musa became, in the process, Nigeria’s all-time highest scorer at World Cup finals with four goals and he the only man from his country to score in two different World Cups.
He is also just the second African player to register two goals in two World Cup matches since Cameroon’s Roger Milla in 1990.
But it has not been an easy journey for the livewire forward, who first caught the eye when, as a 21-year-old, he scored twice against Lionel Messi’s Argentina in a 3-2 group stage defeat in Brazil four years ago.
Signed by the then English Premier League champions Leicester City from CSKA Moscow in 2016 for a club record £16.6 million ($22 million), he scored his first two goals in a 4-2 friendly defeat against a Barcelona side led by Messi.
But it took him until October that year to open his Premier League account with a goal in a 3-1 win against Crystal Palace.
He soon fell out of favour at the King Power Stadium, languishing behind England’s Jamie Vardy, Shinji Okazaki and Leonardo Ulloa in the pecking order.
He was encouraged by Nigeria’s German coach Gernot Rohr to return to his old club in Russia on loan in January to get more game time ahead of the World Cup, a move Musa acknowledges has been vital.
“They helped me get back to the style of play I had today. Were it not for CSKA, I would not have been in the World Cup.”
His first goal against Iceland earned comparisons with Dennis Bergkamp’s injury-time wonder goal for the Netherlands that knocked Argentina out of the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals.
Twenty years later Musa has the chance to eliminate Messi’s Argentina, and the pocket rocket who stands just 1.70 metres (five feet seven inches) tall is ready for the challenge.
“I think scoring against Argentina isn’t that difficult for me,” he smiled after his man-of-the-match performance in Volgograd on Friday.
“I can remember four years ago when Messi played in Brazil I scored two goals,” he said.
“And when I transferred to Leicester I played against Barcelona and he’s on the pitch and I scored another two goals.”
Musa said he would like to return to CSKA permanently, but another stunning performance could see Europe’s top clubs queueing up for his signature.
“I have go back to Leicester,” he confirmed, but said he would only think about his future once Nigeria were eliminated, which he hopes will be at least another two weeks away.
“Coming back to CSKA, if it’s possible, I would love to. It’s my die-hard club.”There is nothing I can pay them for the past seasons I’ve been with them other than to say: ‘Thank you very much’.”