Nigeria’s technical adviser Gernot Rohr believes that John Obi Mikel is being “punished” by Chelsea for participating in the 2016 Olympic games.
Mikel featured in pre-season for the Blues, but is yet to make a competitive appearance under new coach Antonio Conte.
The midfielder captained the Super Eagles to the bronze medal at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, something which Rohr believes is the reason behind his absence in the Chelsea side.
“I spoke about this with Mikel and the club’s technical director [Michael Emenalo]. Mikel is training very well and he plays games in training with the big players at Chelsea,” Rohr explained ahead of Saturday’s World Cup qualifier between Nigeria and Algeria.
“There is a reason why Mikel is not playing for Chelsea right now and that reason is because he played for Nigeria at the Olympics.
“He was punished for that. I cannot punish a player who loves his country and shows that he loves the green jersey.”
Mikel has made at least 20 Premier League appearances for Chelsea in all but one season since joining in 2006.
Rohr insisted that he will start against Algeria, but admitted he is unsure whether the 29-year-old will be able to see out the duration of the match.
“He is a big player so if he tells me on Saturday he can play for 90 minutes, great but if he says he cannot, then I will also listen to him,” Rohr said.
“If he is substituted, we have other players who can come in for us so it is not really a problem for us. I have seen Mikel in the training sessions and he is okay and fit.
“He played a lot of games at the beginning of the season at the Olympics and has also played two games with us against Zambia and Tanzania.
“I have big confidence in him and if he says it is okay, then it is okay but when he says ‘it is not okay’ then it is not and I will listen to him.”
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