The Nigerians are gunning for a fourth continental title and with several key players missing, the ex-Gunner could be crucial to their ambitions
Former Super Eagles defender Joseph Yobo has revealed his admiration for Everton midfielder Alex Iwobi. An ex-Toffee himself, Yobo is backing Iwobi to show his quality and take up more responsibilities as Nigeria chase glory at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
Iwobi did not impress for the Super Eagles in recent times, with the playmaker managing just one goal in six appearances for the former African champions in 2021.
The 25-year-old has not fared much better for Everton as he has contributed a goal and an assist in 13 Premier League games for Rafa Benitez’s men this campaign.
But Iwobi could have a significant role to play for the Eagles in Cameroon with several key attackers – including Victor Osimhen, Odion Ighalo, and Paul Onuachu – missing due to injury or withdrawal.
And Yobo, who is the Super Eagles assistant coach, sees the hard work the former Arsenal ace put in every day, and he expects him to come good when he is needed the most.
“Alex is a big, big player for us in the national team,” Yobo told evertonfc.com.
“He trains hard every day – he is our game-changer. When things are hard, he can change things for us.
“He works his socks off and, technically, he is very good.
“He has the skill and the energy to run at players and track back; he can do all that. And he has an eye for goal.
“He is very important for Nigeria and I believe he can be for Everton, too.”
A nephew of the great Nigerian legend Austin Okocha, Iwobi has nowhere near the natural talents of his iconic uncle.
The Everton number 17 is, however, the master of the nutmeg, has good ball-carrying abilities and has been known to produce a moment of pure brilliance or two.
Iwobi also has some credit on the experience scale, having been a part of the Nigerian squads to the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2019 Afcon.
And Yobo, who won the Afcon with the Eagles in 2013, believes the Everton star can help Nigeria’s challenge in Cameroon by no small measure.
“If you need somebody to take on players and work back, Alex is better out wide,” Yobo explained.
“If you need somebody to do a bit of magic, without being predictable, then he can be a good option behind the striker. He does that very well for the national team.
“It depends on the formation and what you are trying to achieve, but he is very versatile.
“Alex is young but has played a lot of football and is experienced. He knows when to drop in and what to do in different situations.
“I like him a lot. I am a big fan of Alex’s.”
Iwobi has won 50 senior caps for Nigeria and scored nine goals, and has an Afcon bronze medal to show for his endeavours.