New Super Eagles manager, Sunday Oliseh, was once the Nigeria's team's Defensive Midfield General and a resourceful Pass Master – top qualities that made the national team then tick. Now, Oliseh may be looking to mould and institute such an inspirational figure in his team. Completesportsnigeria.com's IZUCHUKWU OKOSI highlights the six most suitable defensive midfield players to jostle for the coach's reckoning for this important role.
1. JOHN OBI MIKEL
The Chelsea midfielder is deployed in the holding midfield role at the club by Jose Mourinho though he began his career as an attacking midfielder who shone at the 2005 FIFA U20 World Cup in Holland.
Mikel was the second best player of that tournament behind Barcelona's Lionel Messi.
But his attacking verve has dwindled somewhat: no longer seen with that creative spark in the midfield.
However, Mikel still plays as the Super Eagles' attacking midfielder and showed his critics he still has those attributes that made him one of the world's best young footballers ten years ago in Nigeria's defeat against Uruguay at the 2013 FIFA Confederation Cup in Brazil.
This could be a tactical change to be effected by Oliseh who might want to hand the number 10 role to players like Rabiu Ibrahim, Kelechi Iheanacho, Kingsley Sokari, Abduljelil Ajagun, Rabiu Ali, Sunday Mba, Nosa Igiebor or perhaps, even old head, Kalu Uche.
Mikel screens the backline superbly for Chelsea and has vision to unleash long range passes that could unlock the most stingy defences.
Mourinho has stopped Mikel reported move to Fenerbahce this summer because he brilliantly does a good job for the English champions when he is in action.
2. OGENYI ONAZI
Despite his indiscretion which led to his being red-carded in the Super Eagles' 2-0 victory over Chad in the first round of the 2017 AFCON qualifiers which will stop him from playing the team's next AFCON qualifier against Tanzania, Lazio's Onazi remains a key cog in the team's play and will be a main player whom Oliseh will work with and possibly transform him into a better performer for the national team.
The Round of 16 game against France in the 2014 World Cup which Nigeria lost 2-0 was arguably Onazi's best game for the Eagles-before he was injured by France's Blaise Matuidi.
Onazi is almost an untouchable in the Eagles midfield but his temperament could be his undoing. Oliseh though has seen it all, and could be a great man-manager under whom players like Onazi will flourish.
3. JOHN OGU
The Hapoel Beer Sheva of Israel midfielder has not been a regular feature in the Super Eagles, but his commitment and will to be a part of the team on a regular basis were evident in his body language when Completesportsnigeria.com spoke to him recently in Lagos.
Ogu's industry, recovery rate and upper body strength are vital assets for a defensive midfielder, but he also has to curb his wayward shots whenever he opts to join the attacking play.
Ogu's tackling could be better, but he is surely a decent player to have in the Eagles.
4. JOEL OBI
The new Torino boy is angling for a place in the Super Eagles. His deep lying midfield play characterised by clever tackles and long passes are similar, to some extent, to Oliseh's.
Obi has mixed it with some of Europe's finest stars as a player of Inter Milan and is moderately qualified to be installed in this position.
5. RAMON AZEEZ
The Almeria midfielder is one of the privileged Nigerian players to have played at all FIFA's age-grade World Cups for Nigeria: bar the U23 side, starring at the U17, U20 World Cups and then the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Azeez is a defensive midfielder with similar attributes to Oliseh's, with his pass range, ball winning and retention abilities and the occasional powerful shots.
What Azeez lacks in size and height, he makes up by sheer talent and hard work.
The former youth international may not always be a starter, but he will surely be part of the Eagles under Oliseh as long as he is working hard and fit and disciplined.
6. PAUL ONOBI
Sunshine Stars FC of Akure star, Paul Onobi has been likened to Sunday Oliseh because of his tenacity and defensive nous in front of the backline.
Onobi, on current form, is arguably the best defensive midfielder in the Nigerian Premier League, along with Kwara United's Dare Ojo. He is a midfielder who loves joining the attack if need be, and could be an asset if given the chance.
Onobi's passing ability is also impressive and it will be interesting to see how this midfielder will perform in trainings if invited by the Eagles' technical crew.
Oliseh was a marvel to watch at Julius Berger and he could look to unearth gems in the Nigerian league who play in the same position as he did during his playing days.