Nigeria national team coach Stephen Keshi says he still believes that John Obi Mikel is a vital cog in the Super Eagles side, despite the midfielder’s lack of game time at his club, Chelsea.
Mikel has not been overly influential during Nigeria’s first two 2015 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying games, which have seen the Super Eagles picking up just a single point from their opening two matches against Congo (2-3) and South Africa (0-0).
Against Bafana Bafana, Mikel was outplayed by Man of the Match Andile Jali, the 24-year-old Belgium-based midfielder who South Africa will build their future around.
It was Jali’s speed, tenacity and skill on the ball that won him most of the one on one battles against the Super Eagles midfielders.
Mikel appears to having fallen down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge, having only had 23 minutes of action so far this season for the big-spending London club, but Keshi remains adamant that the 27-year-old is an important part of the national team.
“Just because he is not playing in his team (Chelsea), that does not mean I cannot use him in my team, that’s the coaches’ choice,” Keshi said after Wednesday night’s 0-0 draw with Bafana Bafana in Cape Town.
“But in my team, if I think that he is 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.”