Coach Gernot Rohr on Monday announced the Super Eagles squad list for March fixtures against Seychelles and Egypt and the team’s captain John Obi Mikel was conspicuously omitted.
As a matter of fact, the 31-year-old hasn’t lined up for the Eagles since their elimination from the World Cup in June 2018.
Although Rohr had repeatedly stated that the midfielder opted out of the team so he can concentrate on then clubside Tianjin TEDA’s engagement, there have been fears the player might have dumped the team.
Mikel joined English Championship side Middlesbrough in the January window and has since been a regular in Tony Pulis’ starting XI but the midfielder is apparently not in the frame of mind to return to the Nigeria side immediately.
Meanwhile, Rohr is said to be happy with the player’s recent performance for Boro but coy on recalling him even as he wants to afford the player more time to settle at his new club.
“The coach is very happy that Mikel is playing well for Middlesbrough at a very good level,” the Eagles Media Officer Toyin Ibitoye told BBC Sport.
“He’s definitely part of the team but coach Rohr believes he has to take things easy with him so as not to overload him,” Ibitoye added.
Enyimba defender Valentine Ozornwafor – who delivered a brilliant showing for the Flying Eagles at the U-20 AFCON earlier in the year – and FC Midtjylland hitman Paul Onuachu were handed maiden call-ups to the team just as Kelechi Iheanacho, Isaac Success and Samuel Chukwueze are some of the notable names left out of the list.
The Eagles will face Seychelles in an inconsequential final 2019 AFCON qualifier game in Asaba on March 22 before playing host to the Pharaohs of Egypt in a friendly four days later at the same venue.
Super Eagles 23-man Squad
Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Anorthosis Famagusta, Cyprus); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Katsina United); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa).
Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino, Italy); Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor, Turkey); Valentine Ozornwafor (Enyimba); Chidozie Awaziem (Rizespor, Turkey); William Troost-Ekong (Udinese, Italy); Leon Balogun (Brighton & Hove Albion, England); Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes, Spain); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn, Germany).
Midfielders: Semi Ajayi (Rotherham United, England); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City, England); John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel).
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al Nassr, Saudi Arabia); Victor Osimhen (Charleroi SC, Belgium); Moses Simon (Levante, Spain); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray, Turkey); Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua, China); Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, England); Samuel Kalu (Bordeaux, France); Paul Onuachu (FC Midtjyland, Denmark).