John Obi Mikel has ruled himself out of the World Cup amidst fears over his long-term recovery from knee surgery.
In what is starting to be seen as a World Cup hoodoo for Chelsea players he joins Germany and Ghana internationals Michael Ballack and Michael Essien on the sidelines for this tournament.
Didier Drogba’s participation in the tournament is also in doubt after he fractured his arm in a 2-0 victory for the Ivory Coast in a warm-up match over Japan.
Teammate Kolo Toure initially said the striker told him his World Cup was over, although a team official later played down the comments.
Such is Chelsea’s strength in depth that the Blues were able to clinch the Premier League and FA Cup double without the 23-year-old Mikel in the finishing stages of last season.
The player hoped that surgery on a knee injury would grant him a clean bill of health in time for the World Cup but despite being named in Nigeria’s 23-man squad it was announced this morning that he won’t play.
Team official Emmanuel Attah said this morning: "We have dropped Mikel from the World Cup squad after he told the team he did not want to put his career at risk as his knee injury has yet to fully heal after a recent surgery."
The only consolation for Nigeria is that – like England with the Rio Ferdinand injury situation – Mikel can still be replaced by one of the seven players dropped from Lars Lagerback's initial 30-man World Cup squad.