Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr has slammed Chelsea’s new manager, Antonio Conte, for leaving John Obi Mikel out of his squad because he decided to “play at the Olympics for Nigeria”.
The German tactician who was speaking at a press conference in Uyo, ahead of this weekend’s World Cup Qualifier tie against Algeria stated that the Nigerian skipper is in good form and will feature for the Super Eagles on Saturday.
Mikel, 29, has not featured for Chelsea this season under manager Conte, despite being the club’s second-longest serving player behind John Terry.
The Nigeria, who is in his 11th season at Chelsea, is expected to leave Stamford Bridge in January.
The Nigerian coach observed that Mikel’s lack of action is not due to his ability but, instead, due to the fact he represented his country at the summer Olympics.
“I cannot punish a player who loves his country and shows that he loves the Green jersey,” Rohr said.
“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.
“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.
“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.
Since joining Chelea in 2005, Mikel has won 2 Premier League Trophies, 4 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, 1 Champions League and 1 Europa League.