By Obiweluozo Martins…
Super Eagles skipper, John Obi Mikel has been a regular feature in Nigeria’s national football team since making his international debut against Libya in August, 2005.
Nigeria won that game 1-0 in Tripoli, Libya courtesy of a goal by Obafemi Martins (fondly called the weapon of mass destruction), who scored following an assist from silky forward, Nwankwo Kanu.
The victory ensured that the former Chelsea legend began his international career on a good note. However, with his absence from the Super Eagles for over a year after the 2018 FIFA World Cup, many have begun to look at the time clock as it appears that his days in the Nigerian set-up are numbered.
Could his decision to stay away for so long have been triggered by the sudden decision of his former Chelsea teammate Victor Moses to retire from the Super Eagles following Nigeria’s exit from the Russia World Cup? It’s hard to tell.
But with young talents springing up here and there within the mix, only time will reveal Mikel’s stance in the Nigerian team, coupled with a series of expectations hanging on this present Super Eagles despite their young age.
On the other hand, should Obi Mikel be really be eager to leave the team regardless of what happens in the AFCON in Egypt? The player still has a lot to offer especially in times like this when the Super Eagles are made up of relatively young players going far into the future.
Despite being left on the bench to watch Alex Iwobi, Oghenekaro Etebo run the strings in midfield alongside stalwart Wilfred Ndidi during Nigeria’s second group match against Guinea, the skipper is still need by Super Eagles in the days ahead.
He commands the respect of his teammates as the likes of Henry Onyekuru, Iwobi, and Etebo have spoken highly of him in terms of the immense quality, his personality and the motivation he brings to the team on and off the pitch.
Manager Gernot Rohr has done well to manage his long protracted absence at a time the Eagles were left with the shock demise (retirement) of star forward Victor Moses at just 27years of age.
With Obi Mikel at 32, just like Lionel Messi who is the hope of his native country Argentina, Nigeria still need him in the squad as they aim for stability in midfield and experience in the team.
His leadership qualities and reputation will enable the likes of Ndidi, Iwobi, Samuel Kalu, Onyekuru and Samuel Chukwueze to settle well into the team as they get matured on the international scene with the next couple of games.