Nigeria’s coach Gernot Rohr has selected clubless captain Ahmed Musa for his 24-man squad for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Rohr’s selection of Musa comes after weeks of speculation with the 28-year-old being inactive since leaving Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr in October and debate has already started in the local media as to what role Musa can play for the Super Eagles later this month against Benin and Lesotho.
Rohr had previously announced that only players actively competing in the top flight would be involved in his squad but appears to have gone against his words.
“Musa has been keeping fit and we hope he can find a club soon,” Rohr had said last month.
Other high-profile inclusions include the England based sextet of Ola Aina of Fulham, Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi of Everton, West Brom’s Semi Ajayi and Watford’s William Troost-Ekong, despite concerns over their availability due to UK quarantine rules.
There is a maiden call-up for in-form striker Sadiq Umar who plays for Almeria in the Spanish second-tier, while top scorer in the Belgian league Paul Onuachu (with 25 goals) is on the standby list alongside experienced goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi.
Enyimba goalkeeper John Noble is the lone selection from the domestic league.
Joe Aribo and Leon Balogun, who have just been crowned Scottish champions with Rangers, are both included as well.
In search of a win to seal automatic qualification, the Super Eagles travel to Benin on 27 March, as another debate about the option of a round boat trip from Lagos to Porto Novo for the game rages on.
The President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Amaju Pinnick had told ARISE News there is no big deal in the country’s stars travelling to the neighbouring Benin Republic by boat for the qualifier.
“Going to Cotonou by boat, I do that all the time. There is nothing wrong with exploring other forms of adventure in Nigeria. What’s the big deal,” Pinnick had said.
On the final matchday, the West African nation will host Lesotho in the commercial capital city of Lagos on 30 March.
Three-time continental champions Nigeria currently top Group L on eight points, one ahead of Benin while Sierra Leone have three points and Lesotho two.
Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (APOEL Nicosia, Cyprus); John Noble (Enyimba FC); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Defenders: Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Chidozie Awaziem (Boavista, Portugal); William Troost-Ekong (Watford, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Fulham FC, England); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn, Germany); Zaidu Sanusi (Porto, Portugal); Tyronne Ebuehi (Twente, The Netherlands)
Midfielders: Oghenekaro Etebo (Galatasaray, Turkey); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Abdullahi Shehu (Omonia Nicosa, Cyprus); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Unattached); Alex Iwobi (Everton, England); Sadiq Umar (Almeria, Spain); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal, Spain); Victor Osimhen (Napoli, Italy); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Samuel Kalu (Girondins Bordeaux, France); Moses Simon (Nantes, France)
Standby: Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray, Turkey); Peter Olayinka (Slavia Praha, Czech Republic); Terem Moffi (Lorient, France); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium); Michael Olise (Reading, England); Adekunle Adeleke (Abia Warriors)