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AFCON 2019: Eagles need Mikel, Moses in Egypt – Chikelue

'Their moves to Middlesbrough, Fernabache good for Nigeria'

George Aluo

Former Super Eagles defender, Chikelue Iloenyosi, has hailed the recent movements made the duo of Mikel Obi and Victor Moses to England and Turkey respectively, declaring that it is a development that is good for the country, ahead of this year’s, African Cup of Nations,  AFCON, in Egypt.

Mikel, who before now was playing his club football in China with Tianjin Teda, has since signed the dotted lines for English championship side, Middlesbrough. While the Super Eagles captain staged a return to England, Moses who called time on his international career after the Russia 2018 World Cup, left Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, where he had been warming the bench, for top Turkish side Fernabache.

Iloenyosi spoke exclusively to The Nigerian Xpress Sports over the weekend and said the fact that Nigeria needs the experienced players to do well in Egypt this summer is not in dispute.

He pointed out that Mikel and Moses would be seeing action every week in their new clubs, a situation that would see them become battle ready for the Nations Cup in Egypt, where the Eagles would be looking to win their fourth AFCON title.

Iloenyosi said: “I think what has happened to Mikel and Moses during the January transfer window is good for Nigeria. As we all know, Mikel has not been featuring for Nigeria since after the Russia 2018 World Cup, but I strongly believe we still need him in the Super Eagles. We have a very young team that needs the experience of Mikel and that of other few more mature players. You can’t buy experience in the market. With Mikel in our midfield, that department of the team gets very stable. Playing in China wouldn’t bring out the best in Mikel. Now that he is back in England, his game would be on the rise again.

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“On the part of Victor Moses, I believe we still need him in the team. His decision to quit international football after Russia 2018 was a big surprise to everybody. If the NFF and the Super Eagles coaches convince him to come back, that will be good. In Fernabache, there is no way Moses would be warming the bench unlike what was happening to him at Chelsea. If he (Moses) gets his mojo back, out there in Turkey, he will bounce back in style for the Super Eagles.”

The former Eagles defender said Nigeria would need to be in Egypt with her best legs, as the Nations Cup in the land of the Pharaohs would be very tough.

“Egypt, no doubt, would be hosting to win. And all the other countries coming to Egypt would be coming there to prove a point. Egypt 2019 is one tournament Nigerians would want Eagles to win. We were not there in the last two editions, so for us, it is important to stage a return with a victory. And if you take a look at Rohr’s team, we have too many young players that must play alongside the likes of Mikel, Moses and Ogenyi Onazi to jell. I understand Onazi will bounce back before the Nations Cup. We thank God he had a successful surgery. If he (Onazi) is fit enough to play, we sure need him too in the team,” Iloenyosi added.

It would be noted that Super Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr had given indication that he wouldn’t mind having Moses back in his Egypt-bound squad, even as he added that Mikel remained captain of the team.

“Victor Moses is a very good player for Nigeria. I believe it was too early for such a good player to stop international football when he did but we have to respect his decisions. If he changes his mind, we will welcome him but he has to find that motivation within himself to come back and be ready to give his 100 per cent at all times, as we know he can. Then, of course, it is important that he gets back to playing regularly at his club and get his sharpness back,” were Rohr’s words in a recent interview.

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On Mikel, the Franco-German Eagles manager had, during a breakfast meeting with Sports Editors in Lagos in November last year, said Mikel remained his captain.

Rohr, who cleared the air on why the former Chelsea player was not getting call ups during the Nations Cup qualifiers said: “Mikel told me after the World Cup in Russia that he wanted to take a break and after then he also had an injury. That was why he was not invited to the squad. However, he is still the team’s captain and once he is ready to come back, he will still have a place in the team.”

With Mikel’s return to England, it is obvious it is time to come back to Eagles.

As for Moses, it is still a waiting game, even as he settles down in Turkey.