Senegal ’92 Africa Cup of Nations bronze medallist Ene Okon believes Manchester City youngster Kelechi Iheanacho will bring out the best in on-form Watford striker Odion Ighalo.
Nigeria coach Sunday Oliseh on Friday named Ighalo on his list of 24 players for next month’s friendly games against DR Congo and Cameroon in Belgium.
Although Iheanacho earned widespread plaudits for marking his second first-team appearance for Manchester City with a late goal to help them beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Selhurst Park on September 12, Oliseh left the 18-year-old out of his list for the Super Eagles’ two friendlies.
And former Nigeria midfielder Okon, who has lavished praise on Oliseh for inviting Ighalo, who has scored four league goals for Watford this season, maintains the Eagles manager will maximise the talent of the former Spain-based striker with Iheanacho striking up a partnership with him.
“I thought Oliseh would invite Iheanacho for the two friendly games. But I’m disappointed he refused to invite him,” the former BCC Lions star told our correspondent on the telephone on Monday.
“He has his reason for not inviting him. We should respect his decision, because it’s not easy being the national team coach.
“Iheanacho has shown he’s a big talent. I think he will support Ighalo, who has proved he’s a good striker, in our attack.
“If we have Iheanacho playing behind Ighalo and (on-loan West Ham forward) Victor Moses on the right side of the midfield, we won’t struggle to score goals.”
Okon, who represented Nigeria at the Chile ’87 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, welcomed Oliseh’s decision to recall Chelsea midfielder Mikel Obi to the Eagles.
Oliseh omitted the 2012 UEFA Champions League winner from his squad for the Gabon 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Tanzania in Dar es Salaam on September 5, which ended in a goalless draw.
The former Nigeria captain also left Mikel out of his squad for the friendly game against Niger three days later in Port Harcourt. Nigeria won 2-0.
Okon said,”Mikel is still one of our best players. I don’t know why some Nigerians don’t like him.
“He does not sit on the bench at Chelsea because he’s a bad player. Jose Mourinho would have sold him if he’s no longer relevant to the club.
“Chelsea have many good players and the coach has to choose one player for each position.”
He added, “I’m happy Oliseh has decided to invite him. He will help the team a lot.
“Mikel will create scoring chances for our attackers. He’s an experienced player – and deserves respect for his achievements in the game.”