PRETORIA (Reuters) -- Nigeria's top player John Obi Mikel was ruled out of the World Cup on Saturday after a training ground injury sustained in his first practice back after a long layoff.
The 23-year-old, expected to lead Nigeria's midfield at the tournament in South Africa, suffered a badly bruised ankle, a Nigerian Football Federation spokesman told Reuters.
Obi Mikel had only just returned to full contact training after undergoing minor knee surgery in April.
He had been doing light training over the last week with the Nigerian side after belatedly joining up with the World Cup squad in London last week.
Obi Mikel who has scored twice in 30 appearances for his country, is the third player from English champions Chelsea ruled out of the World Cup. Michael Ballack, the German captain, and Ghana's Michael Essien have also been ruled out by injury.
A fourth, Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba, is awaiting a decision on his participation after fracturing a bone near his elbow in a World Cup warm-up match in Switzerland on Friday.
Nigeria will replace Obi Mikel with the uncapped Brown Ideye, a striker from French club Sochaux, the NFF said.
Nigeria play a final World Cup warm-up on Sunday against North Korea in Tembisa, outside of Johannesburg.