Former Super Eagles captain and midfield maestro John Obi Mikel announced the end of his illustrious career at the age of 35. The former Chelsea midfielder called time on his professional career in which he represented seven clubs in Europe and Asia. He won the biggest trophies in club football and also represented his country with pride.
John Obi Mikel is a modern-day African football icon
Mikel represented Nigeria at every competitive level from the U-17s to the U-20s to Dream Team to the senior team. The midfielder achieved a great deal in his career and here are the five greatest moments in his glittering professional career:
#5: 2005 World Youth Championship
Having first represented his country at U-17 level, it was at U-20 level where Mikel first attained global recognition. The teenager was pivotal for Nigeria’s Flying Eagles in their run to the final of the tournament before they eventually lost 2-1 to a pair of Lionel Messi penalties. Following his exploits at the competition in Holland, Mikel was named as the tournament’s second most valuable player behind Messi.
#4: Chelsea move
After seemingly agreeing things with Manchester United, Mikel completed a bizarre U-turn to join rivals Chelsea, becoming the club’s most expensive teenage acquisition at the time. Joining the Blues from Lyn Oslo was a definite step up for the youngster but he adapted quickly under the great Jose Mourinho to become a serious force to reckon with at the club. Mikel was named the club’s Young Player of the Year in 2007 and 2008 and enjoyed unparalleled success at the club until he left in 2017.
#3: Rio 2016 Olympics
When asked by Antonio Conte to choose between his career at Chelsea and his dream of representing his country at the Olympics, John Obi Mikel had only one answer. Having missed the 2008 Olympic Games through injury, Mikel jumped at the opportunity to represent Nigeria’s Dream Team in Rio. When the team was short of funds en route to Rio, the veteran midfielder paid for the team’s travel out of his own pocket. He ended up leading the team to a bronze medal in the event, fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing at the Olympics. It cost him his Chelsea career, however, as Conte froze him out of the team after his return from Rio, and he eventually moved to China with Tianjin Teda.
#2: 2012 UEFA Champions League
Midway through the 2011-12 season, very few could have conceived that Chelsea would reach the quarterfinals let alone win the UEFA Champions League. The team was in disarray and manager Andre Vilas-Boas had been fired and replaced by club legend Roberto Di Matteo. What happened over the next four months was the stuff of dreams as the Blues reached the final of the competition against all odds. In the final, the club was without captain John Terry and influential right-back Branislav Ivanovic due to suspensions, and the manager had to field the half-fit duo of Gary Cahill and David Luiz against Bayern Munich in their own stadium. John Obi Mikel was given the role of screening his backline and he delivered one of the best non-scoring performances in a Champions League final ever. His display was pivotal to his side’s victory in the match.
#1: 2013 AFCON victory
Mikel was elevated from many of his peers in Nigerian football by his achievements in 2013. Asides winning the UEFA Europa League With Chelsea, Mikel won the Africa Cup of Nations. He played a starring role for his country as they ended their 19-year wait for a major trophy. He narrowly missed out on being named the African Player of the Year in 2013.
John Obi Mikel is unarguably one of the greatest Nigerian footballers ever with his ability and achievements. The former Middlesbrough, Stoke City, Trabzonspor and Al Kuwait SC midfielder enjoyed a career at the very top and has received the best wishes from all Nigerian football fans and fans of his former clubs for his future endeavours.