John Mikel Obi to Peseiro: Call up EFL Championship top scorer

John Mikel Obi to Peseiro: Call up EFL Championship top scorer

Former Super Eagles captain John Mikel Obi has called on current manager José Peseiro to call up England-born Nigerian forward Chuba Akpom for the next round of international matches.

Akpom grew up in London playing for Arsenal at the famous Hale End academy. He represented England at their various youth levels and switched international allegiances in 2019 when the Three Lions call up was not forthcoming.

Since that switch, however, he has not been considered for any Super Eagles squad. This is in part to his journeyman career which has seen him play for seven clubs since making his senior debut in 2013 for the Gunners. Of those seven, he represented two after his move from Arsenal in 2018 but it is as Middlesbrough that he finally found a home.

Akpom, 27, is currently the best player in the EFL Championship under the guidance of Michael Carrick at Middlesbrough.

He is the league's top scorer with 28 goals from 36 appearances, eight more than the player in second place. Most of those goals were scored with him as the number 10 or the supporting striker, showing that the forward has different dimensions to his game.

The only other Super Eagles' player with a similar profile to Akpom is Leicester City's Kelechi Iheanacho. Mikel believes that the former Arsenal youngster has done enough to get his first callup to the squad and should be included for depth and competition for players like Iheanacho.

Speaking in an interview with OWNGOAL Nigeria, the former national team captain said: “It’s a straightforward choice if you ask me. You are doing it for your team, then you at least get an invitation (to the national team).

“28 goals and not a chance yet with Nigeria then you have to ask the coach why the top-scorer in the championship is not yet in his team. Even England I believe will have a look at him with the way he is going.”

Akpom – who was officially named the EFL Championship player of the season over the weekend – could be playing in the Premier League with Middlesbrough or another club next season, giving weight to Mikel's calls to have him participate in the June outing against Sierra Leone.

Peseiro, however, has more than enough options in attack for the Super Eagles and is also monitoring a number of strikers who all deserve call ups.

He has Victor Osimhen, Paul Onuachu and Terem Moffi alongside Iheanacho, who became the joint-third highest scoring Nigerian in the Premier League over the weekend, as his main options at the moment. He is also monitoring Gift Orban and Victor Boniface, two who have not yet received call ups like Akpom but are making a strong case for themselves.

There is also Taiwo Awoniyi and Sadiq Umar, whose fitness issues have kept them out of the team in recent times, as well as the erratic Emmanuel Dennis who is liked by Peseiro but is only out because others are in better form than he is at the moment.

Akpom is deserving of a call up and Peseiro will do well to listen to the former captain and consider him. However, the competition for places is fierce in the Super Eagles.

The team dynamics is also at stake and the 27-year-old cannot be handed the call up on a platter as Mikel's comments seem to suggest.

This article was most recently revised and updated 10 months ago

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