The Chelsea man has called time on the national team but will it have a positive or negative effect for the Super Eagles moving forward?
37 appearances, 13 international goals, six assists and one Africa Cup of Nations winners medal. You’d imagine that these were the stats of a player who still has a lot to achieve but that is not the case for Victor Moses who announced his retirement from international football at the tender age of 27.
That is certainly way too early for a player who is yet to reach the peak of his powers. Moses made his debut for Nigeria in a 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier away to Rwanda on February 29, 2012, and would go on to be an integral part of the West African giant's team as they claimed a third continental title in South Africa in 2013, and he was part of the team to an equal best round of 16 at the World Cup in 2014 in Brazil.
However, after those highs, the Super Eagles are coming off the back of a disappointing 2018 World Cup campaign in Russia where they narrowly failed to get out of the group phase. But they showed enough promise at the tournament to raise hopes of qualification for the 2019 Afcon, especially with a qualifier away to 188-ranked Seychelles to come next month.
Is it right for Moses to retire so early? Can the Super Eagles move on without him?
The former Crystal Palace wideman’s contribution to the national team can’t be underestimated but he has many at times cut a peripheral figure and his loyalty to the country has been tested. Critics have often accused him of not giving 100% to the team, which in turn affects the outcome of a game. What’s more is that he has missed call-ups a couple of times due to injuries or personal reasons which have generated discontent among fans, labelling him for making flimsy excuses, being lazy and lacking patriotism. Though Moses has usually come back stronger to prove doubters wrong, it’s difficult to forget his bad past when he is not at his best.
He has cited focusing on his club career and being closer to his family as the reason for his international retirement and whether that is a good enough excuse or not, Nigeria need to move on without him.
Victor isn’t the first player to call it quits for his country at an age still full of life and vigour. Paul Scholes ended his international career with England back in 2004 at the age of 29, citing the same reasons of wanting to be closer to his family and focusing on his club career.
There’s no saying that Moses can’t change his mind. He still has a long career and unknown and unforeseen circumstances could unfold that would make a return possible. An example is Zinedine Zidane coming out of retirement to help France who were on the brink of failing to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. It proved to be the masterstroke as the Real Madrid legend marshalled the 1998 world champions all the way to the final of the tournament, only to lose to Italy via penalties.
Rather than beg Moses or wait for a dire situation to call him back, the Super Eagles must brace up and start having a post-Moses plan. Coach Gernot Rohr has a wide array of options to pick from. Samuel Kalu – who moved to Bordeaux to replace the highly-rated Malcom who joined Barcelona – is yet to be tested having impressed with Gent last term. Another former Gent man in Moses Simon - who has joined another Spanish outfit in Levante is there too. Though Simon has been a regular face under Rohr, he missed the World Cup due to injury. But now the 23-year old has the chance to nail his place on the left flank, where Moses has been mostly utilised.
Chuba Akpom who recently sealed a permanent deal to Greek side PAOK after failing to break into the Arsenal first team, is another option. If he makes a good impression in Thessaloniki, it will be worth involving him in the setup.
Henry Onyekuru has been out of the frame of the national team since he suffered a knee ligament injury that kept him out on the sidelines for a lengthy time. He has however recovered and made a temporary switch to Galatasaray from Everton and has showed glimpses of his quality in Istanbul already.
There is equally Alex Iwobi who has been a vital cog for the Nigerian side but the Arsenal man can make an even bigger name for himself this time.
In the end. Victor Moses’ retirement shouldn’t hurt the national team at all. If Gernot Rohr can properly utilise the options available to him, progress and not regress looks certain.