BY COLIN UDOH
It’s transfer season and one big headache for Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr is the inactivity being endured by many of the players in his Super Eagles squad, especially core players who form the spine of the team.
The German has confirmed that he is advising his players to make moves, and will even help them in the process.
But who are the players who really need to explore their options? Here are five that need to seriously consider their futures:
1. Odion Ighalo
After a blazing first half of last season, Watford’s Odion Ighalo has gone off, and stayed off the boil since. His return so far this season after 20 games? One goal.
Such was the form of the Nigeria striker that he attracted a concrete, big-money offer from China which he turned down. It is not clear what the issue is with Ighalo, but his lack of goals at club level have also translated to a similar drought at international level, where he has not scored since May 2016. The 27-year-old’s starting spot at the top of Nigeria’s striking triumvirate has been usurped by youngster Kelechi Iheanacho.
Perhaps a change of scenery could be what Ighalo needs to rediscover his scoring touch? The striker still has a contract with Watford until 2021 so it would be a big decision. But then again, familiar surroundings and an improvement in the team could be just what he needs.
2. Ahmed Musa
Ahmed Musa arrived in Leicester to much fanfare from CSKA Moscow, and his lightning speed was expected to present a double flash partnership with Jamie Vardy that would petrify Premier League defenses.
Instead, the goalscoring form of fellow newbie Islam Slimani has meant that Musa has quietly dropped down the pecking order at the Foxes.
Like Ighalo, poor club form has meant that the man who is assistant Super Eagles captain, has been reduced to a substitute role under Rohr.
There is still tons of ability lurking within that frame, and it showed in Russia. Could it be that a return to colder climes is what Air Nigeria needs to rediscover his wings?
3. John Obi Mikel
John Obi Mikel has outlasted almost as many managers at Chelsea as he has trophies in his cabinet. From Jose Mourinho to Roberto Di Matteo to Mourinho again. And he has chalked up minutes under every one, despite constant rumours of an exit under every new manager.
But Antonio Conte is the boss that finally got him. Mikel’s decision to miss preseason training to represent Nigeria at the Olympic Games would have played some part, but it is clear that having failed to get a single minute of football, the midfielder’s time in London is up.
It is now a question of when, not if he leaves. Thankfully, Mikel’s lack of game time has not adversely affected his form and match fitness for Nigeria.
4. Oghenekaro Etebo
One of the most talented young players in the Nigerian setup, Etebo has featured sparingly for Feirense in the Portuguese league this season, although injury has also contributed to that low tally.
But with interest from clubs in England and elsewhere, it may be time for the 21-year-old to consider taking his talents to a bigger platform. If an offer comes this window, he would be well-advised to make the move.
5. Musa Mohammed
One of the biggest holes in the Super Eagles team is at right-back. For years, different coaches, from the late Stephen Keshi to Rohr, have experimented with different players.
Musa Mohammed, who captained the Nigeria team to Under-17 World Cup title, has presented the most naturally gifted and talented option for the position.
Unfortunately, he has failed to get minutes at his club Istanbul Basaksehir since joining them last season.
This lack of action has also meant that, although he continues to get called up by Nigeria, he has seen no minutes despite being the only specialist right-back in the squad. Instead, Nigeria coach Rohr is giving him extra training sessions.
A move, and one which guarantees him playing time, is imperative.