Super Eagles and Middlesbrough midfielder John Obi Mikel‘s surprise recall to Nigeria’s provisional squad for Africa Cup of Nations will motivate an aspiring young side lacking experience, the head coach and ex-players stated on Thursday.
The Super Eagles were the youngest team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and they will considerably be younger at the Africa Cup in Egypt after experienced campaigners Victor Moses, Elderson Echiejile and Ogenyi Onazi were omitted.
The German tactician Gernot Rohr did not call up Mikel amid the 2019 Nations Cup qualifying series but the Nigerian officials insisted that the player is still the national team skipper albeit Ahmed Musa, took the role at his absence.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the last two editions of the tournament and their young squad is dominated by players who will be their debut in Africa Cup of Nations final. The leadership and vast experience of the 32-year-old midfielder will be precious to how far the group will go in Egypt.
Making 85 appearances and scored six goals since he made his international debut in 2005. This year AFCON will be Mikel’s fifth, winning the tournament in 2013 and was likewise part of the Nigerian team that finished third place in 2006 and 2010.
“We have a couple of experienced players like our captain John Obi Mikel. He is one of our most significant leaders,” said Rohr.
Former Super Eagle left back Ifeanyi Udeze said Mikel will provide inspiration.
“The young players will look up to him, besides the fact that after what he showed with Middlesbrough in the English Championship this past season, he still has a place in the starting team,” he said.
“Mikel has the experience the team badly need and he is still doing well and that explains why so many top clubs are chasing to sign him now,” added another former international, Chukwu Ndukwe.
Mikel has been playing a more deep role at his various clubs, but under Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr he has had a free role just behind the main striker in a formation that has served the team well.
In Egypt, Nigeria begins its quest for a fourth continental title on June 22 out of an enticing group with Guinea and debutants Burundi and Madagascar.