Ikechukwu Uche (born 5 January 1984) is a Nigerian footballer who plays for Spanish club Málaga CF on loan from Tigres UANL as a striker.
Known for his acrobatic goal celebrations, he spent most of his professional career in Spain, having arrived in the country before the age of 20. He amassed La Liga totals of 191 games and 42 goals over the course of eight seasons, representing in the competition Recreativo, Getafe, Zaragoza, Villarreal and Granada.
Uche appeared for Nigeria in two Africa Cup of Nations.
Born in Aba, Abia, Uche’s career began in his country with Amanze United and Iwuanyanwu Nationale. Aged just 18 he moved to Racing de Ferrol in the Spanish second division, appearing in 24 games in his second season, which ended in relegation for the Galician team.
Uche then joined another club in the country’s second level, Recreativo de Huelva, for a fee of US$300,000, and scored 12 goals in his first year, becoming the league’s top scorer in the 2005–06 campaign at 20 in just 28 appearances (with five braces), as the Andalusians returned – as champions – to La Liga after a three-year absence.
In his first top flight season Uche scored on eight occasions. Notably, he netted in three consecutive matches in November 2006 (with wins at Celta de Vigo and against CA Osasuna), helping Recre finish eight.
For 2007–08 Uche joined Madrid’s Getafe CF, mainly being used as a substitute. On 29 November 2008, also from the bench, he scored in a 3–1 home win over Real Madrid.
In July 2009 Real Zaragoza, recently returned to the top flight, agreed terms to sign Uche, subject to medical. He was presented officially on the 22nd, and signed a four-year contract; in only his second match, a 1–4 loss at Sevilla FC, he suffered a severe knee injury, going on to miss seven months.
Uche recovered fully for Zaragoza’s 2010–11 pre-season. However, he soon suffered another knee injury, being ruled out for another six months; his return to action took place on 19 February 2011 as he played 20 minutes in a 0–1 home loss against Atlético Madrid, hitting David de Gea’s bar in the dying minutes of the game, after an individual effort.
On 2 March 2011 Uche made his first start of the season, at home against Athletic Bilbao. On the 55th minute, he scored the final 2–1 for the Aragonese – his first goal since May 2009 – and cried profusely as he celebrated.
Uche (second from left) lining up for Villarreal in 2015
In the last day of the 2011 summer transfer window Uche signed with Villarreal CF, being immediately loaned out to Granada CF. On 17 September he scored the game’s only goal against the team that held his rights, in a home fixture.
Subsequently returned to the Yellow Submarine, Uche led his team in scoring as it returned to the top division in 2013. Highlights included braces in home wins over CD Mirandés (2–0),Sporting de Gijón (2–1), Girona FC (4–1) and at Racing de Santander (3–0). On 6 January 2014, back in the main category, he scored his first hat-trick as a professional to help to a 5–2 away routing of Rayo Vallecano.
On 20 June 2015, Uche signed with Mexican side Tigres UANL for €3.5 on a three year contract. On 2 February of the following year he returned to Spain, being loaned to Málaga CF.
Uche made his debut for Nigeria in 2007. He was part of the squad that competed in the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana, helping the Super Eagles to the quarterfinals.
Uche was called up to the 23-man squad for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, contributing with four scoreless appearances to the eventual champions.
Scores and results table. Nigeria’s goal tally first:
As of 15 November 2014
Uche’s older brother, Kalu Uche, is also a footballer. Also a forward, he too spent most of his senior career in Spain (they are not related to two other players, Uche Okechukwu and Ikechukwu Kalu).
His name, Ikechukwu, means “God’s Power” in Igbo.
Segunda División: 2005–06
Africa Cup of Nations: 2013
Pichichi Trophy (Segunda División): 2005–06