Rohr: Kalu rejected call-up to focus on his club

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The Super Eagles will be missing an important winger for the upcoming international window.

Samuel Kalu’s exclusion from the Nigeria squad for November’s internationals was at his own behest, coach Gernot Rohr has revealed.

The Bordeaux winger, who was a member of the Super Eagles squad to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and has amassed 16 caps since his national team debut in 2018, requested an exemption this time around, Rohr told French radio station France Bleu Gironde.

“I spoke with him and he asked not to be selected,” Rohr said.

“He made a very good argument about wanting to concentrate on the club – he told me that the time had come for him to give his all, to fight to regain his place in the Girondins squad. I found his speech to be very positive.”

The 24-year-old winger has endured a fitful season so far, only making one starting appearance for Bordeaux since he collapsed on the pitch 14 minutes into the club’s Matchday 2 trip to Olympique Marseille in August. In all, he has managed nine Ligue 1 appearances for Les Girondins this season, scoring once.

Nevertheless, Kalu came off the bench to devastating effect in their most recent outing: a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Stade de Reims in which the former Gent man laid on the equaliser for fellow substitute Jimmy Briand, before winning a penalty after his shot struck the hand of a Reims defender inside the penalty box.

In spite of his lack of consistent playing time, Rohr has made a point of including the forward in his international squads whenever he has been fit. His absence for the World Cup qualifying meetings with Liberia and Cape Verde will therefore be a major miss for the squad.

The Super Eagles boss however moved to allay any concerns over the depletion of his forward options, suggesting Kalu would make a swift return once his situation at club level improves.

“We have a lot of wingers in our squad, that is true. The competition is fierce, but I think what matters now is for him to have a starting place at Girondins. He has the means, but he has to be in top physical condition.”

Nigeria go into the last two matchdays of the Second Round of CAF 2022 World Cup Qualification with their destiny firmly in their own hands. The Super Eagles lead the way in Group C with nine points from their opening four matches, two clear of second-place Cape Verde, and would progress to the Playoff Round with a four-point haul from November’s internationals.

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