After taking time off international duties since Nigeria’s exit from the 2018 World Cup, the AFCON in Egypt was expected to herald John Mikel Obi’s return to the national team. It was however not meant to be as he failed to inspire in the two games he appeared for the team. After being left out of the losers’ final against Tunisia, indications are rife as to whether he might have played his final game for Eagles
Indications are rife Super Eagles Captain, John Mikel Obi, might have played his last game for the national team after the team manager Gernot Rohr revealed that the midfielder did not train fully with the team ahead of Wednesday’s third-place play-off against Tunisia.
Obi had suggested before and during the Africa Cup of Nations that this tournament might be his last for Nigeria and possibly his swansong for the Super Eagles.
The 32-year-old has not featured for the Super Eagles since he suffered a knee injury in the 2-0 loss to Madagascar and started the opener against Burundi.
‘’We want to play the fittest players tomorrow, our captain Obi had a little injury yesterday in training so he could not make the training session and it’s not sure that he’ll be able to play, unfortunately,’’ Rohr told reporters.
‘’He already played, he led the team in the first and third match and he did well, so it’s already a good AFCON for him as he didn’t play for one year.
‘’To invite him for this tournament was already a big question because other players that participated in the qualifiers could not come. We decided to invite him because he accepted to come without any conditions.’’
When talks were prevalent before the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt that Obi might not return to the national team after a long ‘AWOL’, Rohr held talks with him and the German tactician disclosed afterward that the former Middlesbrough player was still part of his plan despite not featuring for the three-time African Champions since group game against Argentina in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The former Bayern Munich defender said then: ‘’This is the question that I and my team will resolve. I will soon go to see him at Middlesbrough. There are many things to consider but I respect him and what he has done for Nigeria. He remains an important player.’’
‘’He has been away from the team for a year but we qualified for the AFCON without him. His absence, as our captain, has been evident. But he has had to deal with a range of issues, after the World Cup in Russia,’’ the former Gabon boss had said.
Meanwhile, Obi had stated that Nigeria would continue to do well without him as he prepares to retire from the national team after AFCON 2019 and will be hoping the Super Eagles win the bronze medal as a farewell gift for him.
The former Chelsea midfielder, who will be plying his trade with Trabzonspor in the Turkish topflight in the new season told journalists that the time has come for him to step aside for younger players in the squad, but was quick to add he is always ready to be of assistance to the team anytime.
“Yes, whenever I am needed I will be glad to contribute my quota,” Obi noted. “But I think the team is doing well without me. I don’t think they need me. It is what it is. It is football. You have to know when to let go. I have been here for 13 years and I have played almost all the games in the past so for not playing in two or three games is not really a problem.
“I have done it all, I have contributed my quota and the young guys can carry on. It is the way it is. They have somebody to carry on from where they will stop too someday.”
Obi earned his 89th international cap against Madagascar, 14 years after he debuted for the Super Eagles in a friendly against Libya.
The 32- year-old Obi marked his AFCON debut back in 2006, coming in as a second-half substitute against Zimbabwe. He was a member of the Super Eagles squad that emerged victorious at AFCON 2013 in South, as well as playing at the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups in Brazil and Russia respectively.
The Super Eagles captain recently sealed a two year deal with Turkish League giants Trabzonspor as a free agent with an option to renew his contract with another one year, depending on his performance at the club. Obi spent the second half of the 2018-19 season at English Championship side Middlesbrough where he scored just one goal in 18 appearances for the club.
When Rohr said before Nigeria’s third-placed match against Tunisia that Obi has suffered a fresh injury setback and is ruled out of the clash, it was obvious he might have played his last competitive game for the national team and will be bidding the team farewell.