The Getafe midfielder says it will be tough for the national team to cope with the retirement of its key players but that there’s already reason to be optimistic.
Oghenekaro Etebo has lamented that the Super Eagles would miss the duo of Mikel Obi and Odion Ighalo after both players called it quit with the national team last year.
At the end of the 2019 African Cup of Nations, former Chelsea ace Mikel drew the curtain on a 14-year international career that had seen him amass one AFCON gold medal, one Olympic Games bronze medal and three AFCON bronze medals.
He became the team’s captain in 2016 and led meritoriously until his retirement, earning 91 caps along the way.
But more shocking than the 33-year-old midfielder’s departure was that of Shanghai Shenhua forward Ighalo, who said his goodbyes shortly after his five goals powered Nigeria to a third-place finish at Egypt 2019.
Just 30 and seemingly at the peak of his powers, Ighalo left big shoes that many wondered which of Kelechi Iheanacho or Paul Onuachu was ready to step into.
But young striker Victor Osimhen has responded brilliantly, smashing home four goals for Gernot Rohr’s men in the last four matches Nigeria has played since Ighalo took the exit door.
While Mikel and Ighalo are big stars who would be sorely missed for the leadership qualities, Etebo is confident that the Super Eagles still have the talents that would help it rise.
“They (Mikel and Ighalo) are leaders who we are going to miss in the dressing room,” the on-loan Stoke City ace told The Punch.
“Mikel was a leader; I recall how he helped us during the Olympics when we had issues during our preparations for the Games. Not because I played with him, but for the impact he had on me as a player.
“They helped the team make vital decisions during tough times, and I guess it was just time for them to move on.
“Ighalo on his part is a goal poacher that we also miss, but thank God that we have another goal poacher in (Victor) Osimhen, but we have to be patient with him to settle in well into that role.”