Algiers ’90 Africa Cup of Nations silver medallist Moses Kpakor believes Mikel Obi is still the country’s best midfielder, despite the 2012 UEFA Champions League winner having limited opportunities at Chelsea.
The media and fans alike have questioned Mikel’s commitment to the Super Eagles in the wake of his unimpressive performances for the national team in recent games.
The 27-year-old has not started any game for Chelsea in the season after manager Jose Mourinho decided to alter his match formation to accommodate Cesc Fabregas, who joined the London side from Barcelona in the summer.
But former Nigeria midfielder Kpakor insists Mikel’s bench role at Stamford Bridge has not downplayed his importance to the national team.
He says the 2013 Europa League winner deserves praise not condemnation for helping the country win the Africa Cup of Nations and playing in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“Mikel may not be at the top of his game in England at the moment but he is still respected by top opponents anywhere in the world,” the ex-Abiola Babes player told our correspondent on the telephone on Monday.
“That gives the Super Eagles a huge advantage. It also helps his game. He’s still relevant to the Eagles because his experience helps the team. He’s still our best midfielder.”
He said Mikel should not be blamed for the Eagles’ 3-2 defeat by Congo and the goalless draw against South Africa in their Morocco 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches, saying the 2005 FIFA Under-20 World Cup silver medallist “played well” in both fixtures.
Kapkor said the African champions must play as “a team” to qualify from their group and defend their title.
He maintains the team do not need star players to win matches, urging the players to show commitment on the pitch.
The retired player urged the Nigeria Football Federation to renew Stephen Keshi’s contract to continue as Nigeria coach.
Kpakor said, “I believe Keshi still has so much to offer. The Eagles’ showing (in recent games) should be seen as a very clear case of a divided house rather than Keshi’s lack of ability to deliver. Coaching the Eagles is not for the coach alone. It involves good administration from the NFF. If there is trouble in the NFF, the team will also be affected.”