With Adebayo Olodan
With the 2018 World Cup six months away from now, Nigeria cannot afford to parade unfit and inactive players in Russia if the nation is to avoid another premature exit at the tournament.
Both Kelechi Iheancho and Ahmed Musa have remained key players in the Super Eagles in recent years and will be automatic choice for Coach Gernot Rohr baring any injury or huge drop in form.
However the future of the duo in the national team is hanging in the balance following their poor fortune at Premiership club, Leicester City.
Musa, who joined the club from CSKA Moscow for a club record £19.5m in 2016, has appeared just once for Leicester City this season; a second round Carabao Cup tie against Championship side Sheffield United, in which he scored.
Upon his transfer from Manchester City, Iheanacho was a regular substitute for the Foxes in the league and a starter in Cup ties but has been denied further opportunities in recent weeks.
Musa had been linked with a move to Hull City – where he would have reunited with his former CSKA Moscow manager Leonid Slutsky – the summer – but a transfer failed to come to fruition.
However, there are rumours that the pacy forward may return to former club CSKA Moscow, while Aston Villa are also monitoring his situation.
For Iheanacho, he has failed to achieve the purpose for which he left the Etihad Stadium and he is not likely to lack suitors once he decides it is time to quit Leicester.
For the duo, they need to start considering their future at Leicester as the January transfer window beckons. Failure to quit the club next month may jeopardise their ambition to represent Nigeria in Russia.
Iheanacho and Musa who were regular starters for the Eagles at the beginning of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers ended up finding themselves on the substitutes’ bench towards the end of the campaign. Except their situation changes, they stand the risk of losing their national team slots to more active and fit players.
At this moment, the duo should not consider the financial benefit they stand to gain or lose if they eventually quit the Foxes but the lure of playing regular football every week at their next clubs.
It is also not compulsory that they remain in the Premiership or England. Iheanacho and Musa must as a matter of urgency consider plying their trade in other top European leagues if such move will guarantee them playing time.
For Musa, he already has the trio of Victor Moses, Moses Simon and Alex Iwobi to contend with for a place on the Super Eagles flanks while Iheanacho will battle Odion Ighalo, Brown Ideye and Anthony Nwakeme for a starting berth in the attack of the team.
To compete favourably with their aforementioned colleagues, Musa and Iheanacho need regular club football. Their situation may become worse in the coming weeks especially with coach Rohr scouting Europe for Nigerian-born players.
The German tactician is under no obligation to travel to Russia next June with an unfit Musa and Iheanacho as World Cup is not a tournament targeted at resuscitating the career of any player.
The only duty the gaffer owes Nigerians is to select the best available 23 players to represent the country in Russia.
Speaking on the plight of Musa recently, former Super Eagles defender, Justice Christopher said, “What is happening to him happened to a big player like (Andrei) Schevchenko at Chelsea, it happens to players. But Musa has limited time ahead of the World Cup and needs a quick move to resurrect his career. Nigerians are not happy that he’s not playing. I think he should try his luck elsewhere.”
Also, former Super Eagles fringe player, Victor Ezeji reiterated Christopher’s point saying, “He should get a new club because when a new coach comes in and also sidelines you, it means you have to look elsewhere. No coach will buy you in January and don’t use you.”
Beyond Musa and Iheanacho, another Nigerian player that may need to try his luck elsewhere is the randy Isaac Success. The former schoolboy international has continued to struggle to make match day squad at Premier League club, Watford. Success who recently made headlines for the wrong reason after being caught demanding a payback from commercial sex workers in London, may need a change of environment to re-launch his nose diving career. Unless he gets a new employer in January, the former Granada forward is not likely to get a look-in at club and national team level ahead of the World Cup next June.
Musa, Iheanacho and Success have between now and 31st of January 2018 to make a decision on their career otherwise they risk the opportunity of flying with the rest of the Super Eagles squad to Russia.