With a lot of Nigerian stars home and abroad hitting top form at a crucial stage of the season, it was always going to be difficult for the Super Eagles head coach to pick only 24 for the international engagements in March
Gernot Rohr on Tuesday made public a list of 24 players expected to represent Nigeria when the Super Eagles battle with the Squirrels of the Benin Republic and the Crocodile of Lesotho later this month.
Captain Ahmed Musa, vice-captain William Troost-Ekong, Scottish champions Leon Balogun and Joe Aribo, Everton’s Alex Iwobi, and Napoli’s Victor Osimhen are among the familiar names that make up the well-stocked roster.
The German manager also handed maiden invites to Almeria hotshot Umar Sadiq and Enyimba goalkeeper John Noble.
However, there are some notable absentees whose omission has raised eyebrows considering how well they have performed for their clubs so far this term.
Soccernet’s Imhons Erons turns the searchlight on some of these snubbed stars who would have rightly felt they merited a call-up.
Al Ahly’s Junior Ajayi
Junior Ajayi has been Nigeria’s best export to Egyptian football in recent times, and it is shocking that despite his exploits for Al Ahly, the forward is yet to impress Gernot Rohr.
The 25-year-old attacker is a four-time winner of the Egyptian Premier League, a two-time FA Cup champion, and a reigning CAF Champions League champion.
Away from the continent, the former junior international scored the winning penalty kick and won the bronze medal as Al Ahly beat Palmeiras 3-2 in a penalty shootout at the FIFA Club World Cup.
Approaching the end of February, Ajayi’s brilliance was rewarded when he was the voted CAF Champions League player of the week.
And to celebrate that recognition, he bagged two goals in an Egyptian Premier League game against El Geish.
The player will be wondering what he needs to do to arrest Rohr’s attention. Move to Girondins Bordeaux?
Enyimba’s Anayo Iwuala
The authorities at Enyimba would be pleased to have John Noble team up with the national side for the first time, following Vincent Enyeama and Dele Aiyenugba footsteps.
But one other Enyimba star who would not have looked out of place with the Super Eagles is Anayo Iwuala.
The Aba Elephants have some wonderful talents in Cyriel Olisema and Victor Mbaoma, but on the wings, there is no one better than Iwuala in the whole country.
The 21-year-old has been exciting to watch on the wings. At the same time, his two goals and two assists in the Nigeria Professional Football League point only slightly at his dribbling and creative abilities.
It is only a matter of time before the youngster moves abroad and is considered ripe for the national team.
FC Midtjylland’s Frank Onyeka
Frank Onyeka earned his first invitation to the Super Eagles last year when the team was without the injured Wilfred Ndidi.
The combative midfielder was praised by many as the next best thing to toast bread as he was a permanent feature for FC Midtjylland in the UEFA Champions League.
Onyeka continues to pull his weight for his Danish side, with a possible move to a more prominent team in one of Europe’s top five leagues being mooted this summer.
But Rohr decided to push Cyprus-based Shehu Abdullahi and West Brom defender Semi Ajayi ahead of Onyeka in a midfield looking lightweight with Ndidi, Aribo, and Oghenekaro Etebo the only true central operators.
Crotone’s Simy Nwankwo
In the same week that he became Crotone’s all-time highest goalscorer, Simy Nwankwo would have silently hoped that his efforts would be crowned with an invitation to the Super Eagles.
But the 28-year-old, who now boasts ten Serie A goals this term for the Italian club, has impressed everyone but coach Rohr.
Rohr took Simy to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, but the former Gil Vicente forward has not been a part of the German manager’s plans since.
And the message would have been clear that the boss expects more from his Italy-based centre-forward before he is considered for another invitation.
Genk’s Paul Onuachu
No one will be as disappointed as Genk’s Paul Onuachu following yet another snub from the Super Eagles handler.
The 26-year-old has proven time and again that he is a goalscoring machine after netting 25 league goals for the Belgian side this term.
Onuachu is the most prolific Nigerian forward in the world at the moment, but Rohr picked club-less Ahmed Musa, struggling Victor Osimhen, Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, and Almeria’s Umar Sadiq.
Under a different international manager, Onuachu would be Nigeria’s first-choice striker, but he will have to bid his time as Rohr sticks to his favoured stars.