Former Nigeria midfielder Mutiu Adepoju believes Shanghai Shenhua striker Obafemi Martins has done enough to return to the Super Eagles ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Martins, who joined Shenhua in 2016, returned to the news recently after he scored a scorcher in his team’s Chinese FA Cup win over city rivals Shanghai SIPG.
The 33-year-old has successfully relegated world’s highest earning footballer, Carlos Tevez, to the bench with his performance for the club.
Apart from leading them to the FA Cup title, Martins helped Shenhua finish 11th in the 16-team Chinese Super League.
In his first season in China, Martins scored 15 goals in 31 appearances while in the 2017 season, he scored 13 goals in 21 appearances for the club.
Martins, who was part of Nigeria’s team to the South Africa 2010 World Cup, is Nigeria’s sixth highest goalscorer with 18 goals in 41 appearances. He last featured for the team in 2015 in a Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier against Swaziland.
After his performance in the Chinese FA Cup, Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, said the former Inter Milan striker was open to an invitation to the team ahead of the World Cup because the team needed to get competition in all areas.
And Adepoju, who represented Nigeria at the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, told our correspondent during the week that Martins’ performances in China were good enough to earn him a return to the Eagles.
The former Spain-based footballer said the Eagles could do with Martins’ experience and fitness to enhance competition in the attacking department of the team.
“The coach can never be wrong with opening the door to all good players ahead of the World Cup. The World Cup is a competitive event and every coach wants to do well. Before Rohr can make that comment about Martins, he must have observed his performance for a while and not with just a match,” he said.
“The Eagles did very well in the qualifiers for the World Cup but they struggled a bit in the attack and can do with the option and experience a player like Martins can bring to the team.
“He has been doing well with his club and has been able to hold his own in a star-studded league as the Chinese League. It is a good thing the coach wants to have a look at him again.”
Adepoju said Martins’ return to the Eagles would not threaten the place of Changchun Yatai striker, Odion Ighalo.
He said, “Ighalo is a fantastic striker and no one can take that away from him. He has been consistent for his club and he has done well for the Eagles as well. But he is the only main striker in the team for now. The others are more of supporting strikers.
“A return for Martins or any other good striker the coach may find will not threaten Ighalo’s place rather it will give the coach more options to work with and get the best for his team to the World Cup. The country has other strikers doing well at their clubs like Henry Onyekuru and they can give the coach headaches during team selection.”
The former Shooting Stars star however advised that the players should be tested in friendlies to allow the coach make the best decision.
He said, “The role of friendly matches cannot be downplayed ahead of the World Cup. Martins should not expect to walk into the team if he gets an invitation because of his club performance.
“He and other players, who want to make the World Cup team, will have to work their boots off to deserve any chance of doing so. And the best way to test them is through friendly matches.”