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EXCLUSIVE: 'Wingers are used to competition' - Levante's Moses Simon on regaining Nigeria spot

7:38 AM EDT 10/31/18
Moses Simon - Nigeria
The player has gone down the pecking order in the national team after a muscle problem ruled him out of World Cup action in June

Levante's Moses Simon insists competition is good for him, and other Nigeria wingers are used to it.

The former Gent player was one of Gernot Rohr's trusted legs during the successful 2018 World Cup qualifiers, impressing in four of the six games. But the German tactician was forced to drop him from his World Cup squad after he picked up a muscle injury during the final preparations.

Simon was recalled for Nigeria's doubleheader against Libya but prior to the games, other widemen had sprung up with his former Gent teammate Samuel Kalu taking his chance in September's tie against Seychelles - an encounter he missed after a relapse of the muscular problem at his new club - while Everton loanee Henry Onyekuru also caught the eyes in the following friendly against Liberia.

Victor Moses' retirement after the big summer in Russia and a new central attacking role for Alex Iwobi did not still guarantee the pacy winger a chance in the wins over the Mediterranean Knights, with Samuel and Onyekuru playing in both games and in-form stand-in captain Ahmed Musa locking down one of the two wide spots.

All of these stamping Simon's fall in the pecking order.

"I'd say that, for me, it's good. I'm used to it and I believe the players in that position are used to it," Simon told Goal.

"You cannot say that in your club you're the only winger in the team. So in the national team, it's a thing of joy having the same experience. All the wingers are good.

"All the wingers [that are always being] called up are good. So it's left for the coach to determine who plays and who doesn't. I believe anyone the coach put will play a good game."

Returning after having to deal with the reality of not participating in his first ever World Cup tournament, Simon feels rather grateful.

"It's felt good to be back again to represent my country and it's a proud thing," he continued.

"I'd say that injury is normal but for me not to go to the World Cup, I'd say God knows best.

"I could have gone and maybe end up not playing a game. I believe God protected me from that.

"I thank the coach, technical staff, everybody for showing me the love. Trying to push me, trying to encourage me in that time," he added.

Seemingly a reward for his good works in Belgium with Gent over the past few years, the 23-year-old secured a move to Levante in the summer and has linked up with three other African players; Ghanaian sensation Emmanuel Boateng, fellow new signing Raphael Dwamena and Ivorian midfielder Cheick Doukouré.

The Levante no. 7 has played 49 LaLiga minutes with the Sevilla outfit, scoring a goal.

On Tuesday evening, the former Liverpool target who has yet to start a league game, was in Copa Del Rey action as they battled to a 1-1 stalemate with Lugo. He will look to get into Paco López's starting line-up when they face Samuel Chukwueze's Villarreal at the weekend.

"It has been fantastic. LaLiga is a great league for every player. I believe every player wants to play in LaLiga," he said.

"It's very good for me and I'm very happy that I'm there. So everything is fantastic.

"[The African players] encourage me. They told me the steps I will take and it profits me. So, it's good for me."

A chance to get his first Super Eagles action ever since the all-important World Cup qualifying win over Zambia in Uyo, last year October seems nearer after Rohr named a 23-man squad for the next month's crucial Afcon qualifier against South Africa and Uganda friendly, with Galatasaray winger Onyekuru dropped to the standby list and teenage sensation Chukwueze called up.