John Mikel Obi wants to be assured of his position as the Super Eagles’ captain as condition for him to return to the senior national football squad.
Mikel, who joined English Championship side, Middlesbrough, last January from Chinese Super League side, Tianjin TEDA has not kicked a ball for the Eagles after captaining the national team to a first round exit at the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Head coach, Gernot Rohr, has made frantic efforts to manage the agitations that trailed the continued absence of the ex-Chelsea star from the squad which has raised doubts about his commitment.
Mikel now wants to be assured of reclaiming the captain’s armband before taking the decision to be part of the squad to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations starting in June in Egypt.
Mikel’s demand is coming after the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick, referred to Ahmed Musa as “Captain” at the NFF Awards Night in Eko Hotel held in Lagos on April 1.
The Awards gala which had the Super Eagles class of 94 in attendance saw Ahmed Musa voted the Nigeria’s Male Player of 2018 and Pinnick while receiving the award for Musa said, “I want to say congratulations to my son, my captain; Ahmed Musa.”
Guests were visibly left in shock wondering if the Al Nassr forward had officially taken over the captaincy of the Eagles from Mikel .
Rohr, who it was learnt was making last minute moves to have a private discussion with the Middlesbrough player gave various reasons for Mikel’s self-imposed exile during a parley with the media in Asaba last month.
“Obi Mikel is playing again in Middlesbrough for a few weeks and is doing well now. But there is still a little problem with his knee and it was not the moment now to come back for him in these conditions.
“They have so many games in Middlesbrough, they are fighting for promotions. He told me that this is not the moment to come back so the question was not there to come back now but if Obi Mikel, is very fit again, if he has the motivation, if he shows that he is better than the other people we have, the door is open for everybody.
“I’m not like (Joachim) Löw who announced officially that three of his players are out definitively from the Germany national team, I never say that because you never know what can happen. You can have injuries, you can sometime a great fitness and performance from the players who you believe are finished.
“We are watching and seeing what is happening to see if he can come back. We need experience in our team, we have young players, so the experience of such a player could be interesting.”
Meanwhile, the media officer of the Eagles, Toyin Ibitoye, says Mikel has not made such demands since he is still the captain of the team.
“Rohr has the final say who leads the team and as far as we know, the coach has not told us that Mikel is no longer the captain of the team.
“Even Ahmed Musa, who has been the stand-in captain had always referred to Mikel as the substantive captain of the team. People should not create problem when there is none” Ibitoye warned in emphatic tone.
Ibitoye also described as baseless and unfounded insinuations that the backroom staff has a preferred player they are supporting to captain the national team.
“That’s absolutely untrue. The backroom staff does not have such powers. We can’t meddle into such issues because it is specifically the responsibility of the coach. We work with any player that has been picked by the technical crew to wear the armband” he added.