Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has thrown his weight behind John Obi Mikel, despite the midfielder’s lack of match-fitness form against South Africa on Wednesday.
Keshi says the 27-year-old remain a “very important” contributor to the Super Eagles, regardless of him earning playing time at Chelsea or not.
“Just because he is not playing in his team, that does not mean I cannot use him in my team, that’s the coaches’ choice,” said the 52-year-old after Wednesday night’s goalless draw in Cape Town.
Mikel’s only appearance in the Premier League this season came in a cameo (23′) role against Everton a couple of weekends ago. He has however had the chance to reassert his importance to his teams on the international stage, featuring in Nigeria’s first two round of 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying matches, but fell further below in ratings.
He lost most of the midfield battle to 24-year-old Belgium-based Andile Jali, as Nigeria managed to earn just a point from two of the 2015 Afcon qualifiers.
The Super Eagles will play Sudan home and away in November and one will hope the former Lyn Oslo playmaker earn some form in time for the crucial matches. Which ever way it turns out, Keshi believes Mikel remains an inspiration for the upcoming ones.
“In my team, if I think that he is (in) good shape, with the wealth of experience he has, all his years in the Champions League, I think he’s very important for us in the team, and we just have to make the best of the situation.”