Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said he would be disappointed if John Obi Mikel played for his Premier League side Chelsea this weekend.
Mikel reported to the Super Eagles camp injured and trained alone throughout his stay, missing out on friendly games against Botswana and Zambia, Keshi’s first in charge since he replaced Samson Siasia when the team failed to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
“I will be disappointed if he plays for Chelsea this weekend. I will be very, very disappointed,” Keshi said after his team beat Zambia 2-0, with Kalu and Ikechukwu Uche scoring the goals.
“There is no sentiment about me. Whoever will come to this national team will merit it. Nigeria is too big for this.”
“It’s a shame we are not at the Nations Cup, but that is in the past. Now we need to start looking forward. Let’s bring those that are available, capable, and in good shape to come and play for us and fight to get a place in the national team.”
The former captain, who led Nigeria to their last Africa Cup of Nations triumph in 1994, added: “They will have to fight, because when I was playing I was fighting.”
Keshi, who has the onerous task of taking the team back to their glorious times, said that the friendly matches had proved good enough for him to know which players will be coming back into his future squad when they play against Rwanda in an Afcon 2013 qualifier next year.
“Now I know those I want from this group to come back for that game. Then I will try to pick some players from the local league,” he said.
The coach seemed impressed with the work-rate of captain Joseph Yobo, who won his record-equalling 86th international cap against the same team that he played in his first game a decade ago.
“It wasn’t really about victory today, but for me to see the quality of most of the players and those I will need next time,” Keshi said.
“Some of them here will not come back because they do not merit being in the national team.”