Middlesbrough midfielder Jon Obi Mikel asked to be omitted from the Nigerian international squad for their upcoming fixtures, according to manager Gernot Rohr.
The Super Eagles are set to tackle Seychelles in an African Cup of Nations qualifier before later facing Egypt in a testing friendly.
Rohr named his squad for the double-header yesterday with two notable absentees - Mikel and Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho.
But Rohr has now revealed that the decision to omit Mikel was not his own, with the former Chelsea midfielder having requested to be left out of the squad as he continues to build-up his fitness.
The 31-year-old has impressed since signing a short-term deal on Teesside but has told his international boss that he still requires time to build-up strength following a troubling knee injury.
And the Nigeria boss has refused to rule-out handing Mikel an international return in the future should his fine form continue.
"He [Mikel] has arrived in Middlesbrough recently. He told me he was not ready and needs to work after his knee injury in China," said Rohr, speaking to goal.com.
"He did not play all winter either.
"He has been not ruled out for the Afcon but could not make the match in Asaba. We will see for the future."
This year's African Cup of Nations will take place in Egypt in June, meaning Mikel would not miss any fixtures should he be handed an international return.
Meanwhile, Middlesbrough are offering supporters the chance to have their say as the club prepare to temporarily rename the Riverside Stadium.
The stadium will be given a new identity for the visit of Norwich City on Saturday, March 30 thanks to a partnership with Enjoy Tees Valley.
For the televised clash of the promotion rivals, the Riverside Stadium will be renamed in homage of the area's most famous son - Captain James Cook.
Supporters can pick from one of these four name choices: Captain James Cook Stadium; Endeavour Stadium; Discovery Stadium; Resolution Stadium.
Votes can be cast at mfc.co.uk.