Once considered one of the best young players in the world along side Lionel Messi, John Obi Mikel was the jewel of Nigerian football. Mikel was an attacking box-to-box midfielder that displayed all the characteristics and traits to excel in the middle of the pitch.
Mikel was controversially acquired by Chelsea in 2006 by manager Jose Mourinho from Norwegian side Lyn Olso. Many supporters expected Mikel to become a dynamic midfielder that would get about the pitch playing along side the likes Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Claude Makelele, but off the field concerns and numerous transgressions landed Mikel into Mourinho’s dog house. Mikel’s behavior became a detriment to the team as well as himself, eventually leading to him being phased out of the first team for over a month.
Mikel was eventually reinstated to the first squad and Mourinho turned Mikel into a defensive-holding midfielder, a role the Nigerian International wasn’t known for. Mourinho saw Mikel as a direct replacement for one of the best holding midfielder’s in the world, Makelele.
During Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea, Mikel was a huge success and put in consistent impressive performances for the Portuguese manager. Mikel began to embrace his new role due to Essien’s injuries. He became a first-choice player under Chelsea and flourished.
Mourinho eventually left Stamford Bridge for Inter Milan and Mikel became marginalized under other managers, as the hot seat at Chelsea became a revolving door. Mikel looked miserable and short of confidence as Roman Abramovic continued to sack managers, leaving Mikel with no stable figure to confide in and mature under.
At the ripe age of 26 in his professional prime, Mikel looks like he has regained his confidence and has resurrected his career with the return of Mourinho. Mikel looks like he will again become a mainstay in the Chelsea midfield and fulfill the potential and praise that was bestowed upon him as a rising star.
Mikel scored his first English Premier League goal this weekend after 180 appearances for the London based club. It will be interesting to see how he is used by Mourinho moving forward and if he can became an instrumental figure in Chelsea’s pursuit of another EPL and Champions League title.