Odion Ighalo admitted that his dream move to Manchester United is stained with a broken heart – since his older sister Mary did not survive to see it happen.
Ighalo is ready to make his United debut when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team face Chelsea in Monday’s Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge.
But her sister – who was a huge United fan – won’t be there to testify after she collapsed and died in December, just 43 years old.
Ighalo has been engraved with the name of his beloved sister on his football boots and will also wear a white shirt engraved with his name under his United shirt.
The Nigeria striker also promised to dedicate all the goals scored to Mary, whom she declared “like a mother” to her younger brothers.
“I feel very excited because it didn’t really strike me that my sister is gone forever and I will never see her again,” Ighalo said as he spoke for the first time about the tragedy in the quotes reported by The Sun.
“Sometimes when I’m alone and I remember her alone, I have severe pain in my heart.
“My twin sister, Akhere, will call me, crying, saying she misses her, and sometimes when I’m alone, I cry too.
“It’s a very painful loss but I’m trying to be strong as a man.”
Mary was at home preparing her children for school when she collapsed.
Ighalo said: “It was a very painful moment.
“She just collapsed and died before the kids could even call an ambulance. When the doctors arrived, they tried to revive her but she was already gone. “
Mary was survived by Akhere, her older sister Beatrice, her brothers Austin and Moses and their mother Martina.
Ighalo, 30, said: “Although she was my older sister, Mary was like a mother to all of us.
“Even when I was young, she would take care of me. He tried to make everyone happy, make sure everyone was fine. “
The striker also talked about how Mary and her brothers were big United fans. At his house he had hung a picture of him framed in a Red Devils shirt with his name on the back.
Ighalo added: “My sister was a huge United fan. We all grew up watching Manchester United, we supported them all.
“Mary’s husband followed Chelsea, while their children were fans of Manchester City and Liverpool, but remained loyal to United.
“He always prayed that I would sign for United. Even when she came to watch me in the Premier League while playing for Watford, she hoped I would join United.
“The painful part for me is that I have now signed up for United, but she is not here to see him.
“However, I know he is up there looking at me.
“That’s why I will play with his name on my boots, so he is always with me at Old Trafford or in any game for Manchester United.
“Every goal that I score from now until the end of my career will be dedicated to God and to her.
“I wrote his name on my special white T-shirt and put his name on my boots. I want to show the world that it is always with me.
“It means he can hear me play at Old Trafford, hear that dream we all prayed for, even if he’s not here to see it.
“But you will be on your feet, helping me on the pitch.”
Ighalo is on loan to United from the Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua.