Former Chelsea midfielder, John Obi Mikel wanted Everton playmaker, Alex Iwobi dropped from the starting line-up during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and clashed with Super Eagles head coach, Gernot Rohr during the tournament, it has been revealed.
News outlets were awash with reports that Former Super Eagles captain, John Mikel Obi had fallen out with Gernot Rohr before the tournament began, leading many to believe the Super Eagles won’t go far in the African tournament, but Rohr has now shed light on what really went wrong.
According to top BBC World Football reporter and NFF member, Osasu Obayiuwana, who had an exclusive chat with Gernot Rohr, Mikel had issues with Alex Iwobi taking his role wondering why he didn’t start games for Super Eagles despite his good form for Middlesbrough in the just concluded Championship season, and nearly caused issues at camp.
”After Mikel John Obi’s top-grade performance with Middlesborough in the championship, it was thought that he would exhibit the same form during the AFCON2019. But despite engaging a personal trainer after the season, Mikel’s physical conditioning dropped…’ Rohr told Obayiuwana.
This was quite evident in Asaba, during the one-week I spent with the Super Eagles before they left for Egypt. But he was always going to be a part of the squad because Gernot sees him as integral to it, even when he’s not 100% fit.
The drop in Mikel John Obi’s physical conditioning – as seen from the group AFCON2019 games he played – forced Rohr and the staff to take the decision that he wouldn’t have more than a bit-part role during the tournament.
And Mikel John Obi didn’t help himself when he complained about Alex Iwobi in Egypt. He felt the Everton player was cramping his playing space and style, and wanted him dropped. That was something Rohr was never going to accept, which made his selection duties much easier.
With this in mind, Mikel John Obi was slightly unsettled and when the issues of unpaid players bonuses came up, its easy to know where his mind was – even if justifiably so. The management of his mood was a tournament issue for the technical staff.
”He served the Super Eagles very well, for many years. It was very important that he finished his career with Nigeria in a good way. I have nothing for respect for him and how we worked together.”
But despite all of this Gernot Rohr still had words of praise for Mikel, saying it’s normal for issues to come up between players and coaches.
”Yes, there were some difficult moments with Mikel during the tournament.’ Rohr said to Obiayuwana.
”But it’s normal for players and coaches to have these things. That’s why I’m the manager. I have to manage.”
Mikel, Nigeria’s most decorated footballer of all time, announced his retirement from international football following Nigeria’s third-place finish at the Africa Cup of Nations this summer..