Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr, has revealed the reason behind John Mikel Obi’s current travails at English Premier League club, Chelsea.
Mikel, the current Super Eagles captain, has yet to make a substitute appearance for Chelsea in all competitions this season despite featuring fleetingly for the Stamford Bridge club in pre-season.
Rohr has now explained that Mikel has failed to play competitively for Chelsea so far this season because the club’s manager, Antonio Conte, “is punishing him” for representing Nigeria at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Mikel was Nigeria’s captain at the 2016 Olympics, impressing as the “Dream Team” won the country’s only medal – a Bronze – at the Games.
“I spoke about this with Mikel and the club’s technical director (Michael Emenalo). Mikel is training very well and he plays games in training with the big players at Chelsea.
“There is a reason why Mikel is not playing for Chelsea right now and that reason is because he played for Nigeria at the (2016) Olympics.
“He was punished for that (by Conte) “I cannot punish a player who loves his country and shows that he loves the Green jersey,” Rohr said at a press conference Thursday ahead of tomorrow’s FIFA World Cup qualifier between Nigeria and Algeria in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Rohr then hinted that the Chelsea man is certain to start tomorrow against the Fennec Foxes. The trainer, however, stated that he is not certain if Mikel will play the entire game or be substituted at some point against the Algerians.
“He (Mikel) is here with us and he is fit and I hope he can play for 90 minutes against Algeria, but if it is not possible, we shall see.
“He is a big player so if he tells me on Saturday he can play for 90 minutes, great but if he says he cannot, then I will also listen to him. If he is substituted, we have other players who can come in for us so it is not really a problem for us.
“I have seen Mikel in the training sessions and he is okay and fit. He played a lot of games at the beginning of the season at the Olympics and has also played two games with us (Super Eagles) against Zambia and Tanzania.
“I have big confidence in him and if he says ‘it is okay’, then it is okay but when he says ‘it is not okay’ then it is not and I will listen to him,” Rohr explained.