Super Eagles boss Gernot Rohr has dropped Leicester City star Kelechi Iheanacho from Nigeria’s final 23-man squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Iheanacho was originally in Rohr’s 25-man preliminary squad that reported to camp ahead of AFCON 2019 but could not make it to the final 23 after a poor season with Leicester City.
In the 2018/2019 season, the 22-year-old managed just one goal in more than 30 appearances for Leicester City where he has failed to live up to his potential.
It’s been a downward spiral for the Manchester City academy graduate whose goal per minute ratio was better than anyone else during his breakout season with the reigning Premier League champions.
Although his career had stalled since he left Manchester City, Iheanacho had continued to get the backing of Rohr continued to invite him for national team duties.
That stopped in March 2019 when Rohr, for the first time as Super Eagles boss left out the former Golden Eaglets forward for the games against Seychelles and Egypt during the international break.
Rohr was scathing in his assessment of the Leicester City forward when he was asked by a Pulse Sports reporter about Iheanacho’s absence from the squad at a press conference ahead of the Seychelles game.
“I told him why he is not on the list. I want to see other strikers,” Rohr said.
“This is the last opportunity to invite other people because there is no other FIFA window before we have to do our first list.”
“Also we are not really satisfied with his performances in the last time and I think he has to be more professional,” Rohr added.
“It's not good all the time to be funny. You must show that you are serious, working every day in the training session and show that you are to come back in the team, at the club and also with us.”
Rohr toned down on the criticism of the forward after noticing a change in him.
“Kelechi Iheanacho has changed, he's now much more quiet. He's working seriously but he's lacking confidence because he didn't play so much,'' Rohr told the media at a press conference ahead of the Saturday, June 8 against Zimbabwe in Asaba.
But Rohr’s mind was already made up as he announced on Sunday, June 9 that he has dropped the forward from the Super Eagles squad for AFCON 2019.
Rohr has chosen to go to Egypt with the likes of youngster Victor Osimhen -who scored 16 league goals for Belgian side RC Sporting Charleroi last season- consistent goal scorer Paul Onuachu who netted 17 league goals in 30 games for Danish side FC Midtjylland and Odion Ighalo, Super Eagles first choice striker.
Other forwards in Rohr’s list include Henry Onyekuru, France-based Samuel Kalu, Moses Simon and revelation of the season Samuel Chukwueze.
Rotherham defender and midfielder Semi Ajayi is the other player who was dropped from the squad following the return of Mikel Obi after a year-long absence.
Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Anorthosis Famagusta, Cyprus); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Katsina United); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa)
Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor FC, Turkey); Chidozie Awaziem (Caykur Rizespor, Turkey); William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy); Leon Balogun (Brighton & Hove Albion, England); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany);
Midfielders: Mikel John Obi (Middlesbrough FC, England); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City FC, England); John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al Nassar FC, Saudi Arabia); Victor Osimhen (Royal Charleroi SC, Belgium); Moses Simon (Levante FC, Spain); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray SK, Turkey); Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua, China); Alexander Iwobi (Arsenal FC, England); Samuel Kalu (Girondins Bordeaux, France); Paul Onuachu (FC Midtjyland, Denmark); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain)