…Pundits react to nominations
Football pundits have considered two Super Eagles’ stars, Chelsea defensive midfielder, John Mikel Obi and Manchester City striker, Kelechi Iheanacho, as possible finalists among the 30 players recently nominated by the Confederation of Africa Football for the Glo-CAF African Footballer of the Year award, billed to hold early next year in Abuja.
The two English Premier League players have been remarkable and outstanding for both club and country, since last season and they deserved to make the final list, after the first screening exercise by national team football coaches across the continent.
However, there are strong contenders, whose achievements with club and country could enhance their chances of getting to the top of the final nominations and these include: Leicester City and Nigeria striker, Ahmed Musa, his team mate, Riyad Mahrez of Algeria, Egypt’s Mohamed Salah of Roma, Dortmund of Germany and Gabon player, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ghana and West Ham star, Andre Ayew.
According to former international, Ademola Adesina, Mikel has paid his dues with his recent achievement with Team Nigeria Under-23 Olympic football team, which he captained to a bronze medal, against all odds at the last Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
He said Mikel has been consistent with club and country and always leads by example, even as the captain of Team Nigeria.
“Apart from that, he was one of the surviving members of the team managed by late coach Stephen Keshi, Sunday Oliseh and Samson Siasia. I think with his age and experience, he has built a good foundation for himself, especially when he played for Nigeria in 2005 at the FIFA Under-20 World Championship in Holland.
“He was rated second best player behind Argentine Lionel Messi and since then, he has never looked back. At least, he is one of the few Nigerian players around in that generation,” he said.
Adesina also rated Iheanacho high among the nominees for the prestigious award, saying the player has really come of age and can contest with great players across the world. “With the way Iheanacho is going with his career, only injury could stop him. He has so far proved himself as the best Nigerian player in England. He scores for Man City at very crucial stages and with Nigeria, he never loses grip of keeping the flag flying in the matches against Tanzania and Zambia. He always make himself available come rain, come sunshine. He is determined and dedicated,” Adesina told The Point from Belgium.
Earlier, former Super Eagles’ coach, Christian Chukwu, had described Iheanacho as a great potential for Nigeria’s attack now and in future, adding that nothing stops him from winning the World Player award organised by FIFA.
“I have been monitoring Iheanacho’s career from the Under-17 team and he has never disappointed me. His presence in the Nigeria team is a big boost. He has been wonderful and I know Manchester City will not like to miss a player like that. That was why they quickly offered him good contract. We still need such players in the national team. This is the era of the youths and we are excited about the great development,” Chukwu said.