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Anichebe: Club before country

Everton striker Victor Anichebe says "the time is not right" to return to international football with Nigeria.

Last Updated: 01/05/13 at 15:48 Post Comment

Anichebe: Over 18 months since last international appearance

Anichebe: Over 18 months since last international appearance

Everton striker Victor Anichebe is putting his international career on hold in order to focus on the Toffees.

Last week, Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi claimed the 25-year-old was not returning his calls and, as a result, he had not selected him for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Anichebe has now revealed international duty has been put on the back-burner as he wants to repay his club for the faith they showed in during a long spell of injury.

Two serious knee problems curtailed his availability from 2009 onwards and when he did finally return to fitness, a groin injury playing for Nigeria in September 2011 meant another four months on the sidelines.

"I have always been proud to represent my country," Anichebe told BBC Sport.

"But it is becoming more and more evident that with the injuries I have had over the last two years or so, I have to manage my body accordingly.

"That's why I feel the best thing for me at the moment is to concentrate on club football.

"Without club football there is no international football and everyone at Everton was with me every step of the way during my injuries and rehabilitation.

"So I owe it to the club to manage myself correctly.

"I didn't feel that the Nigerian Football Federation was there for me the in the same manner, which was especially disappointing given that I got the injury representing my country.

"But I don't blame anyone for this nor do I have any issues with anybody from the NFF or Stephen Keshi our coach.

"He has done a fantastic job and is building a team that Nigerians can be proud of."

Anichebe was a member of Nigeria's silver medal-winning Under-23 team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, from where he progressed to the senior side.

He has since missed out on selection for a World Cup and this year's African Nations Cup, which was won by Nigeria.

Anichebe added: "The time is just not right for me to resume my international career as of yet but I would certainly love to represent my country in the not-too-distant future."

The striker, who has become the Toffees' first-choice attacking threat in recent weeks as a result of Nikica Jelavic's dramatic loss of form, is set to lead the line again in this weekend's Merseyside derby at Anfield - where the Blues have not won since 1999.

Liverpool will be without their top scorer Luis Suarez, who is serving a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, but goalkeeper Tim Howard said the Reds' most recent 6-0 win over Newcastle proves they are still a threat even without the Uruguay international.

"All the talk has been about how Suarez has carried them, maybe rightfully so, but boy have they made a statement and shown everybody that they also can find goals from other places," he told Sky Sports.

"They are a threat, we know that, and I think we'll have mapped out a plan to try and beat them come Sunday."

Everton have lost only one of their last eight league matches but that defeat - at Sunderland a fortnight ago - more than likely put paid to their Champions League hopes.

They are sixth, just five points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal, and while Howard admits catching the Gunners will be difficult, he has not yet ruled it out.

"I think we've always been a dark horse, we've always been the outsider in that race, and we still are," he added.

"If we put a few moments of magic together, if we can win out, which is never easy with the games that we have, and we can get some help in and around us, anything is possible."


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