MIKEL OBI

Chelsea midfielder, John Mikel Obi has declared himself available for national team assignments whenever the Super Eagles coaching crew led by Sunday Oliseh extends invitation to him.

Mikel’s agent, John Shittu, disclosed that the Chelsea star who made cameo appearance in the champions’ 3-2 away victory against West Brom will never turn his back on Nigeria and was ready to play.

The international future of the former Lynn Oslo midfielder became a subject of public debate soon after coach Sunday Oliseh omitted him from his first squad list for next month’s 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Tanzania,for allegedly snubbing him. “I was in England early this month and I put a call through to Mikel. I called him four times, the phone kept ringing. I sent him a text message, I got no response,” Oliseh disclosed.

But the player’s representative insisted that what happened was breakdown in communication rather than a deliberate attempt to snub the gaffer. “Mikel will never turn his back on Nigeria. He loves playing for his country and this is just a miscommunication between coach and player,” Shittu clarified.

He explained further: “Mikel sincerely missed the calls and wasn’t sure who called. Once he realised who it was he made efforts to reach Sunday Oliseh but could not speak to him. Efforts are being made to sort things out amicably because Mikel is dedicated to Nigeria.”

Shittu, however, described media reports on the issue as sensational, fuming: “It’s unfortunate that a miscommunication is being blown out of proportion in the media. For the sake of the country, everyone should support the coach and the players selected instead of focussing on other things that could affect the preparation.”

Despite being Nigeria’s second most decorative player after Kanu Nwankwo and surviving many managers at Chelsea, Mikel has had troubled spells with previous Super Eagles coaches. Oliseh’s predecessors such as Berti Vogts, Samson Siasia and Stephen Keshi all had brief spats with Mikel, over his perceived poor attitude to national team assignments or lack of respect.

Mikel, who made his debut for Nigeria against Libya in August 2005, has scored four goals for his country in 64 appearances. He has won the Africa Cup of Nations, the Uefa Champions League, Uefa Europa League, two Premier League titles, four English FA Cups, two League Cups and one Community Shield while playing for Chelsea FC of England.

By Olisemeka Obeche

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