Against the earlier insinuation that Middlesbrough of England midfielder, Mikel Obi could no longer be counted upon to play for the Super Eagles after he last played for the team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the national team Manager, Gernot Rohr, is still counting on him to lead Nigeria to the AFCON in Egypt
After severally defending the Super Eagles captain on his availability for the national team, that he only asked to be excused from the team for a while, Nigeria national team Manager, Gernot Rohr, last month went on to admit that he was no longer certain over his future with the national team after he last played for Nigeria at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Before then, Rohr had all along maintained that he and Mikel were in regular contact over the midfielder’s decision to regain full fitness before returning to international duty, the gaffer is now sounding less certain.
With Mikel also failing to fix any particular date on his much-expected return to the Eagles, the Franco-German gaffer had declared in a media chat last month that he did not know the Teda star’s schedule.
Dismissing suggestions that the Super Eagles are lacking a natural number 10 in the centre of the pitch ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations with the international future of Obi Mikel up in the air, the German tactician has stressed that he was not searching for a playmaker and had identified three players who could replace the Chelsea hero if he was not available for selection.
“I am not worried about it because we have a lot of players who can be natural playmakers. You know we have players like Etebo who can be a playmaker, he can also be a good defensive midfielder,” Rohr had told national television.
“We have Alex Iwobi who played in this position and did very well in Johannesburg, we have Ahmed Musa who is coming in from the left side and can give good balls and score himself. You know that it is not necessary to have this position of number 10 in modern football. Everybody must be able to make the play, to be a playmaker even the defensive midfielders or even the defenders have to give good balls and to construct the game.”
The scenario has however taken a new twist with Rohr saying recently that he hoped the Middlesbrough midfielder could lead his country to Africa Cup of Nations success later this year.
After leaving Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda earlier this year, Mikel has dropped off the international scene, yet his move to Boro could trigger a recall.
“We are happy to see our captain now playing for a big club. We hope to see him fit and playing regularly,” Rohr told footballlive.NG
“That’s what we want for all players. They should keep playing well with their teams and keep doing well. With Mikel playing in a tough league, maybe he can help Nigeria win the 2019 AFCON in Egypt.”
The tournament, which starts on June 21, won’t coincide with Boro’s promotion push with Tony Pulis’ side sitting sixth in the Championship.
Mikel has played two games for Boro in the league, impressing against promotion rivals West Brom and Leeds.
Meanwhile, while expressing his dissatisfaction with the doubts that surfaced over his Super Eagles future last year, Mikel speaking via his Nigerian intermediary Babawo Mohammed wondered how doubts over his commitments surfaced in the first place.
“The doubts over his commitments got to him because he adores playing for the Super Eagles and as captain, he wants to be a shining light for the young players in the team,” Babawo said.
“If Mikel is no longer interested in playing for Nigeria he will make an official announcement but for now it’s due to injury. People should understand his commitment and love for the Super Eagles. He will no doubt support them to qualify for the Cup of Nations because he wants to play and lift it again with the Super Eagles,” he remarked.
Mikel surprised bookmakers when he joined Championship side, Middlesbrough on a short term deal till the end of the season after he became a free agent in November after a two-year spell with Tianjin Teda in China.
“I spoke to a few clubs and I also spoke to Tony Pulis, had a good chat with him. He’s told me where he wants to go with it and it definitely fits with what I want to do.
“The club wants to get promoted so hopefully, I’m here to help in any way I can. It’s a family club and this is what I want. I like stability and this is why I was at Chelsea for a very long time.”
Pulis added: “I’m pleased to get him in. He is a man with a lot of experience and quality. He has a winning mentality and he wants to be here, be a part of what we are looking to achieve.”