Middlesbrough FC news: Nigeria coach hints at John Obi Mikel recall plus Tony Pulis' message ahead of Sheffield United clash
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr hopes Middlesbrough midfielder John Obi Mikel can lead his country to Africa Cup of Nations success later this year.
The 31-year-old hasn't played for the Super Eagles since the 2018 World Cup, where he started all three group games as captain.
After leaving Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda earlier this year, Mikel has dropped off the international scene, yet his move to Boro could trigger a recall.
Mikel has won 85 caps for his county and helped Nigeria win the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013.
The Super Eagles have also qualified for the 2019 tournament in Egypt later this year and Rohr hopes Mikel can play a part in the competition.
"We are happy to see our captain now playing for a big club. We hope to see him fit and playing regularly," Rohr told footballlive.NG
“That’s what we want for all players. They should keep playing well with their teams and keep doing well.
“With Mikel playing in a tough league, maybe he can help Nigeria win the 2019 AFCON in Egypt.”
The tournament, which starts on June 21, won't coincide with Boro's promotion push, with Tony Pulis' side sitting sixth in the Championship.
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Mikel has played two games for Boro in the league, impressing against promotion rivals West Brom and Leeds.
Pulis' side will face another tough test when they make the trip to third-place Sheffield United tonight.
The Blades let a three-goal lead slip at Aston Villa last time but Pulis has been impressed with Chris Wilder's side this term.
“We’ve had them watched the last couple of weeks and their performance and their energy," said Pulis. "If you look at the teams at the top of the table, their fitness levels and their energy, and even Leeds on Saturday, were exceptional.
“Sheffield United are exactly the same; they’ll play for 90 minutes, they won’t play for 30, 40, 50 minutes, they’ll play for 90 minutes.
“This year they’ve gone a step better and they’re a much more settled team and they’re a good team.
“They’re physically strong, they’ve got good pace, good power up front, they move the ball quickly and it’s going to be a tough game.”