Does Joel Obi's Super Eagles lifeline come too late?


Gernot Rohr has handed an international lifeline to Joel Obi, who was named in his 28-man Nigeria squad for the upcoming friendlies and has the opportunity to return to the Super Eagles team for the first time in almost four years.

The left-footed playmaker's career has been blighted by recurring injuries, but he now has the opportunity to gatecrash the World Cup party.

However, does the chance come too late for the promising talent to fulfil his international potential?

Together with Chinedu Obasi and Onyekachi Apam, Obi has been regarded in Nigeria football circles as one of the great nearly men of the nation's game. The trio had the quality to achieve superstar status, only to be denied by persistent injuries.

While the aforementioned duo unfortunately failed in their bid to stage a comeback to the international scene with Nigeria, Obi has the opportunity to muscle his way into the Super Eagles' talented midfield unit.

A showing at the World Cup could go some way to compensating for the missed opportunities of recent years.

At the time of his arrival on the international stage with Nigeria seven years ago, the hardworking midfielder instantly became a fan favourite due to a combination of factors, notably his commitment, work rate and technical ability.

In a two-man midfield partnership with John Mikel Obi under coach Samson Siasia, the duo held sway.

However, it was the younger Obi who just eclipsed his compatriot with each passing game, and appeared the more focused of the pair.

Fast forward to present day, and the previously maligned Mikel has taken over the mantle of leadership as the Super Eagles' captain, while Obi's international career has gone largely unfulfilled.

He struggled to establish himself at Internazionale, largely due to injuries, but has finally begun to realise his potential at Torino where he's demonstrated the consistency that has clearly piqued the interest of Rohr.

Injury concerns linger, but he's netted four goals and contributed two assists in the Italian top flight so far this term, and offers something a little different from the likes of Ogenyi Onazi, Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo and John Ogu.

Perhaps the need to have tactically flexible and versatile players for a tournament environment has forced Rohr to consider Obi, who can play in a deeper playmaking role, as a No. 10, or on either flank.

He's also played in wing-back or full-back positions earlier in his career, and this ability to serve Nigeria across the park may see him edge out one of his more one-dimensional midfield rivals.

Obi's experience, high energy levels and technique mean that he wouldn't be fazed should Rohr opt to change formation before or during a match.

Could the same be said for Mikel Agu or Uche Agbo?

It's perhaps going too far to suggest that World Cup inclusion would make up for Obi's years of watching on for the sidelines or missed opportunities with the Super Eagles.

However, while he's unlikely to be a starter, his plethora of qualities could make him a valuable option from the bench, and a unique asset for the Eagles.

He could, at last, demonstrate that he deserves to be considered among the top Nigerian players of his generation.