Nigeria national team head coach, Gernot Rohr, has revealed why he decided against calling up in-form Middlesbrough midfielder, John Mikel Obi, as well as Leicester City striker, Kelech Iheanacho, in his recently released list for the Super Eagles.
Both players are notable omissions from the 23-man squad invited for the country’s international outings later this month. According to Rohr, Iheanacho and Mikel were dropped from Nigeria’s squad due to lack of regular playing time and non-readiness.
The Super Eagles gaffer released a 23-man list to prosecute their final 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against Seychelles on March 22.
That dead rubber qualification match – as the Super Eagles are through to the finals holding in Egypt in June – is followed by a friendly tie against the AFCON 2019 host nation four days later with both games to be played in Asaba, the capital of Delta State.
On Iheanacho’s part, the Leicester City star has struggled for form at the King Power Stadium this campaign having scored just a goal so far in the Premier League.
In addition to his poor form, the 22-year-old who has made 30 appearances across all competitions this season is yet to start a league match since December 8 [vs. Tottenham Hotspur].
Meanwhile, Mikel’s exclusion leaves many confused as he has been impressive in the Championship since he joined Middlesbrough on a short-term deal in January.
Yet the German tactician noted that the 31-year-old ruled himself out of this month’s international outings and also warned other players who are not playing consistently at their various clubs ahead of the country’s participation in the continental showpiece that will take place in Egypt later in June.
“Kelechi [Iheanacho] needs to play in his club. He also needs to take advantage of the international truce to show his qualities to his new coach,” Rohr told the Confederation of African Football (CAF) website.
The German added: “I give him time but there is danger for the Africa Cup of Nations for those who do not play regularly in their club. The final list for the Afcon is far from being made for anyone.”
Rohr continued: “He [Mikel] has arrived in Middlesbrough recently. He told me he was not ready and needs to work after his knee injury in China. He did not play all winter either. He has been not ruled out for the AFCON but could not make the match in Asaba. We will see for the future.”
Midtjylland star Paul Onuachu, scorer of 14 goals in the Danish Superliga, is one of the players handed their debut call-ups and Rohr is looking forward to seeing the 24-year-old boost his team’s frontline.
“He has the experience of Europe at the age of 24 years. His size is obviously his strength and the beautiful goals scored in the Danish championship. This is another profile for us in attack,” Rohr said.
Has Rohr made the wrong decision by dropping Mikel?