Oghenekaro Peter Etebo has not been included in Nigeria final 28-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations because his Premier League club Watford want him to focus on his rehabilitation from injury.
The Stoke City loanee, 26, moved to Vicarage Road in July and made six appearances in the Premier League before a thigh injury in September curtailed his impressive start to life with the Hornets.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and interim coach Austin Eguavoen had hoped to include the experienced Etebo in his squad even if he was not fit enough to play in all the Super Eagles matches.
However, Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, who had been a doubt for the tournament after picking up a serious facial injury in November, is included after declaring himself fit to play in Cameroon.
Osimhen underwent surgery on his cheekbone and eye socket on 23 November, having sustained fractures in the 3-2 defeat by Inter Milan two days earlier.
Despite not playing since his return to training wearing a protective mask and Napoli wanting to keep him away from the continental showpiece , Nigeria expect him to play a big role in the finals that kick-off on 9 January.
“We expect Victor [Osimhen] to join up with the rest of the squad at least by 3 of January,” NFF director of communications, Ademola Olajire, told BBC Sport Africa.
“It is unnecessary to react to every report in the media about our players availability or potential non-availability for the tournament.
“But the NFF is confident that our players including Osimhen understands the country’s desire for a fourth continental title. It is important to have all our players show same commitment and ambitious traits as displayed by Osimhen.”
Recalled from international retirement by sacked Gernot Rohr, top scorer from the 2019 Nations Cup, Odion Ighalo is named as one of the nine forwards alongside in-form Emmanuel Dennis of Watford, Union Berlin’s Taiwo Awoniyi and Almeria’s Umar Sadiq.
Captain Ahmed Musa and defender Kenneth Omeruo are the survivors from the Super Eagles squad that won the Cup of Nations in 2013.
As expected, there are several English Premier League stars in the squad, which includes Alex Iwobi (Everton), William Troost-Ekong (Watford), Frank Onyeka (Brentford) and Leicester City duo of Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho.
The shock inclusion is former Under-17 captain Kelechi Nwakali, who plays for Spanish second-tier side Huesca, while injury means that Nigeria’s leading scorer in Europe this season, Paul Onuachu, will miss the tournament.
Among those to miss out are French club Lorient’s forward Terem Moffi, Kevin Akpoguma of Hoffenheim in the German Bundesliga and fellow defender Tyronne Ebuehi of Italian Serie A club Venezia.
The three-time African champions are in Group D along with Egypt, Guinea-Bissau and Sudan. They open their campaign against the Pharaohs in Garoua on 11 January.
Nigeria squad for Afcon 2021
Goalkeepers: Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa), John Noble (Enyimba), Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, Netherlands), Francis Uzoho (Omonia Nicosia, Cyprus).
Defenders: Ola Aina (Torino, Italy), Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor, Turkey), Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Jamilu Collins (Paderborn, Germany), Olisa Ndah (Orlando Pirates, South Africa), Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes, Spain), Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal), Abdullahi Shehu (Omonia Nicosia), William Troost Ekong (Watford, England).
Midfielders: Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia), Alex Iwobi (Everton, England), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England), Frank Onyeka (Brentford, England), Kelechi Nwakali (Huesca, Spain).
Forwards: Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin, Germany), Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal, Spain), Emmanuel Dennis (Watford, England), Odion Ighalo (Al Shabab, Saudi Arabia), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England), Victor Osimhen (Napol, Italyi), Moses Simon (Nantes, France), Sadiq Umar (Almeria, Spain), Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey).