Joel Obi’s bad luck with injuries could cost the midfielder his place in the Nigerian squad for the 2014 Fifa World Cup finals in Brazil.
Head coach of the Nigerian national team, Stephen Keshi has insisted that he rates the AC Parma midfielder but may find it difficult to give the 22-year-old a chance to shine in Brazil as a result of his recent injury woes.
Obi has started just two league games for AC Parma this season (against Juventus and SS Lazio) as he struggles to find his best form and Keshi said he feels sad about the struggles Obi has had to face with injuries in recent months.
“When I first took over (as Nigeria coach), Joel Obi was one of the players I wanted to build the team around.
“I feel so sorry for the kid because more often than not, he’s been injured,” Keshi told supersport.com.
Obi played just 95 minutes in Serie A in the 2012/13 season and Keshi revealed that he tried to help the midfielder during that difficult phase of his career.
“I tried to help him and spoke to him a lot but after a while, you feel like giving up because you know what the footballer is going through at that period.
“He wasn’t playing (for Inter) at that time because of the injuries and I made him understand that I wanted him back.
“I knew he was going the extra mile to return to full fitness. Whenever he was nearing fitness, the injury would recur again and become even more complicated than it was before,” he said.
Obi now seems to have turned the corner and has now made seven league appearances this season for Parma in the Italian top flight.
He was particularly impressive against champions, Juventus on match day 30 (his first league start in 2014) and played for an hour at the Juventus Stadium before the Parma trainer, Roberto Donadoni decided to replace him with Ghanaian midfielder, Afriyie Acquah.
Keshi admitted that he has been carefully monitoring the progress of the midfielder in recent weeks and is pleased with the strides the former Internazionale man has taken.
“He’s been playing regularly for the past three weeks. When I was in the United States on vacation recently, I watched him play once for Parma.
“I am happy for him but it is still too early for me to say if he will make it (to Brazil) or not because he’s been out for almost two years but we’ll see how it goes,” he said.
Obi has 11 caps for Nigeria at senior level since earning his debut in 2011.