CAIRO – The work to find a replacement for retiring Super Eagles captain John Mikel Obi starts immediately but finding a replacement for the 32-year-old will be hard, Nigeria’s coach Gernot Rohr has said.
The midfielder who had been due to retire from international football after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations sustained an injury before Wednesday’s third-place match against Egypt to bring his tournament and international career to a premature end.
And speaking at the post-match press conference after Odion Ighalo’s fifth goal of the competition ensured a 1-0 win over the Carthage Eagles at the Al Salam Stadium, Cairo, Rohr in response to a question from busybuddiesng.com correspondent Kelechi Nkoro about filling Obi’s place in the team, paid homage to the midfielder’s impressive career and said while replacements must be sought for Obi, with very few midfielders of Nigerian origin playing in Champions League or other big clubs, it would be difficult to find a suitable replacement.
“First we have to say thanks to this great player for his career and also for what he has done for Nigeria. And even if he did not participate in the qualifiers, we invited him to participate in this AFCON and he played his role of captain even if he did not play very well and for the team it was good to have him,” Rohr said of the midfielder who was capped 81 times by the national team and won the AFCON in 2013.
“Now, it’s true that we have to search for some midfielders, we have [Semi] Ajayi who was in the 25 [man provisional list for the AFCON] but not in the [final] 23, playing in England, this one could come also in the defensive midfield, we have other young players but all is depending on what they are doing in their clubs.
“We don’t have players in Champions League clubs, for example, we have good players, but playing, some of them in second division in Germany or England. We only have two playing in England regularly but Alex Iwobi is not all the time starting player at Arsenal, and Ndidi, yes in Leicester but it’s not a very big club.
“So I think we have to work hard to find the players who can double Obi Mikel or the other one.”