Should Obafemi Martins be recalled to the national team?

Obafemi MartinsBy Solace Chukwu & James Ezimoha

Could the answer to the Super Eagles’ offensive deficiencies be found in Major League Soccer, in Seattle Sounders’ hotshot striker?


It’s clear that Nigeria need some fresh ideas in attack. Even Emmanuel Emenike couldn’t turn the tide for the Super Eagles in their infamous home defeat against the Republic of Congo, whileStephen Keshi’s side drew a blank against South Africa in Cape Town. The reigning African champions have failed to find the net in 50% of their last ten games. Something must change if Nigeria are to defend their title in Morocco in early 2015…let alone if they are to retain it.

Keshi has, in fairness, tried to mix things up in attack; Victor Moses, Victor Obinna, Shola Ameobi, Michael Uchebo and Ideye Brown have been jettisoned, local players have been introduced, while Hull City’s Sone Aluko has also been called-up. However, might a solution be found in a veteran striker who is banging in the goals at club level? No…we’re not proposing the Ike Uche this time, but another forward, one who joins Uche on 18 international goals, but who has done so in fewer matches..


Solace Chukwu: No better man than Oba-goal

Obafemi Martins’s decision to play for the Super Eagles in 2004 was greeted with cheers and great optimism. He justified the hype by scoring on his debut, a deft finish after a fearless run at the heart of the Irish defence in an international friendly. His record speaks for itself: he averages a goal every two games for the national team, and has scored goals wherever he has played in a club career spanning nearly all of Europe’s major leagues.  This season has seen him up the ante in terms of goal-scoring, with his tally currently standing at 13 for the season with MLS club Seattle Sounders. Also developing is his all-round game, attested to by nine assists.

The case for a recall could not be stronger. If the national team is picked on form (and it should be), then there is no reason for the exclusion of the former Inter youth player. Even allowing for the transience of form, Martins has delivered consistently for the Super Eagles over the past decade whenever called upon.

Should Martins spearhead the Eagles in Morocco

Speaking recently to BBC Sport, the 29-year-old made clear his desire to once again don the green and white, saying, “I said at the start of the season if I was doing well for Seattle and scoring goals, I’d have a chance with Hammed.” His words reveal the motivation for his sparkling season so far. Having been out of the fold since the 2014 World Cup qualifier against Kenya in Calabar, Martins is clearly eager to make another impression.

Is there a better striker on form than Martins now? I think not.  The goals have dried up for talisman Emmanuel Emenike, while Hammed Musa offers a threat with his pace but has never been a reliable finisher. Gbolahan Salami and Osaguona Ighodaro have performed gamely in the interim, but neither can touch Martins for quality, especially at a time when the Super Eagles need proven ability to salvage a dicey Nations Cup qualifying campaign.  To persevere with an underwhelming forward line at this point would be counter-intuitive and could come back to bite Stephen Keshi. Martins has earned his chance, and should be brought back to the fold.

James Ezimoha: Martins not the answer

The Super Eagles are in a precarious position in terms of striking options, however, the answer to the situation does not dwell in the past. This is where Obafemi Martins belongs. There’s no disputing the fact he is in red-hot form in Major League Soccer, with 13 goals with the Seattle Sounders. However, can we then conclude that he is the answer to Nigeria’s goal-scoring problem?

First, the football community would attest to this simple truth: club form doesn’t necessarily translate into success with the national team. A good example to buttress this salient point is Chelsea’s Diego Costa. The Brazilian-born Spanish international, who bagged the Premier League Player of the Month for August after scoring four goals in three matches for his new side, has somehow failed to replicate even a quarter of such blistering form when on duty with Spain.

Just like Martins, he is flying high on the goal chart in the league with seven goals in only four matches; now, that’s superb current form. However, the story is quite different for La Roja where he has failed to find the back of the net, even in his current form. Is Costa a bad player? Certainly not. Is Martins a bad player? Not at all. However, current club form, which, agreeably, ought to be a reliable guide to justifying a player’s inclusion or none inclusion in the national team can be quite misleading.

Martins ought to stay on the sidelines…

Secondly, Martins will be 30 next month.  With the long term prospect of the team in mind, is Martins really the answer? The Sounders’ forward is barely a short-term fix to a long-term problem. So he comes in and, possibly, gets Nigeria out of the current fix, then what? He starts to campaign for a plane ticket to Morocco?

He is certainly not in the bracket of players who form part of the rebuilding process of the national side. For all his quality and loads of experience, the future of the Super Eagles is of more importance than a short-term fix; one which we are not even guaranteed. Just like the mercurial Ike Uche, who continues to light-up La Liga with his goal-scoring exploits, the clamour for Martins’s reinstatement is rather short-sighted.

The question is: who is going to bell the ‘cat’? And quite plausibly, the answer is not Obafemi Martins.

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