Super Eagles Captain, John Mikel Obi has announced his plan to retire from international football with the current African Cup of Nations (AFCON) billed to be his last international engagement.
The midfielder, 32, returned to training on Sunday after picking knee injury that could have kept him out of the entire campaign in Egypt.
Speaking to BBC Sports, Mikel concedes this will certainly be his last appearance on the continental showpiece event and possibly for his country. He explained that winning the Nations Cup in South Africa was the high point, stressing that that’s why he wants to help the young team to hopefully achieve their dreams
“It’s been an amazing ride for me in the national team. Thirteen years I think is enough. I’ve won trophies, I’ve had a lot of amazing time. I think it’s time for these young guys to carry on.
“I’m mostly here in Egypt to support the young guys and make sure they’re on the right track. I think my presence is always important for them, hopefully I can finish with the trophy.”
Mikel said he is determined to play a part in Nigeria’s quest for a fourth continental title, stressing that he has fully recovered from the knock on his knee.
“If I’m fit, I’d love to play in the quarterfinal, but no need to rush,” he added. Hopefully, if we can make it to the semi-finals I’ll probably be ready then and help the team if I’m needed.
“Obviously winning the Nations Cup in South Africa was the high point, that’s why I want to help this young team to hopefully achieve their dreams,” he said.
“If we are able to win it here, I’ll be proud and they’ll be proud, then they can carry on from here.”
He was also one of Nigeria’s three over-age players as the African side won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Mikel has won a total of 89 caps for Nigeria, playing in the past two World Cups and helping the Super Eagles win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. He also helped Nigeria finish third at the 2006 and 2010 Nations Cups.
So far, he has made two appearances for the Super Eagles at the ongoing tournament in Egypt, but missed their last-16 tie through injury as Nigeria secured a quarter-final date against South Africa with a 3-2 win over bitter rivals Cameroon.