Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi, Tuesday night rebutted insinuations that the restoration of John Mikel to Nigeria’s roster for the Africa Cup of Nations tie against Liberia was because of pressure from high quarters.
Mikel was named among the 38 foreign and home-based players for the crucial engagement billed for Calabar on October 13, marking his return to the national camp since November 2011.
The Chelsea midfielder is yet to figure for the Eagles under the watch of Keshi, after his celebrated refusal to play a friendly match against Botswana last November in Benin City because the game was on an artificial pitch.
The last time he was deployed for Nigeria was in the friendly match against Ghana in London on October 11 2011.
After his meeting with the members of the NFF Technical Committee, Tuesday, Keshi told reporters he offered to include Mikel after the holding midfielder assured him of his availability, when they spoke three days ago.
“I spoke with Mikel three days ago and he convinced me was ready to play for Nigeria and be part of the team that will beat Liberia for the Nations Cup ticket. I don’t have problem with Mikel, he has always figured in my plan. I know he is in form and he told me that he was ready to play for his country. Nobody forced him on the technical crew,” he defended.
Apart from Mikel, Joel Obi of Inter Milan was also one of the players that staged a return to the Eagles, while Onazi Ogenyi, who plays for Lazio in Italy, was handed his first international call up.
Ogenyi, a forward, was a member of the U-17 team that reached the final of FIFA U-17 World Cup at Nigeria 2009 under the watch of coach, John Sam Obuh.
The full list of foreign-based players are: Goalkeepers Vincent Enyeama (Maccabi Tel Aviv) Austin Ejide(Hapoel Be’er Sheva)
Defenders: Captain Joseph Yobo (Fenerbache) Elderson Echiejile ( Sporting Braga) Efe Ambrose (Celtic)
Midfielders: Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis) Joel Obi (Inter Milan) Nwankwo Obiora( Padova) Ogenyi Onazi ( SS Lazio) John Obi Mikel (Chelsea)
Attackers: Victor Moses (Chelsea) Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow), Ikechukwu Uche( Villareal), Emmanuel Emenike (Spartak Moscow) Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev)
Meanwhile the duo of Osaze Odemwingie and Taye Taiwo were not included in the team, as Keshi expects them to fight for their place in the Super Eagles squad.
The 23 home based players expected to resume campg at the end of the month are: Chigozie Agbim(Warri Wolves), Daniel Akpeyi (Heartland), Azubike Egwueke (Warri Wolves), Papa Idris (Kano Pillars), Godfrey Obuabuona (Sunshine Stars) Umar Zango (Kano Pillars), Kwambe Solomon (Sunshine Stars), Ezekiel Bassey (Kano Pillars), Kingsley Udoh (Heartland), Ejike Uzoenyi (Rangers), Sunday Mba(Warri Wolves), Gabriel Reuben(Kano Pillars), Henry Uche(Enyimba), Christian Ofibi (ABS), Solomon Jabason (Akwa United), Sanusi Sani (Gombe), Philiph Asukwo (3SC), Izu Azuka (Sunshine Stars), Anthony Okpotu (Lobi Stars), Brendan Obu (Heartland), Fidelis Saviour (FC Taraba), Ubale Manir (Kano Pillars) and Gomor Ondukwu (Sharks).