by Olawale Agbede

Guile, precision, intelligence, character, leadership and charisma. Look for one word that encompasses all of these qualities and Mikel is probably the first that comes to mind. Originally born John Michael Obi, the clerical error that led to his change of name is one that can only be said to be a product of fate. In the stands across different football grounds in England, Nigeria and across Europe’s big cities, the name John Obi Mikel is not one that needs too much recollection.

Mikel was born in the Plateau to a family of business. His now well-known father runs a transport business and even though the family is of Igbo descent, Mikel grew up to become a man in the heart of the city of Jos. Football was a gift to the young teenager and with so much talent, it was not long until Pepsi Football Academy spotted him and took him in as one of their young prospects. Eventually he signed up to play for his then hometown club, Plateau United in the Nigerian Premier league.

In 2003, Mikel was part of the Golden Eaglets that crashed out of the Under-17 World Cup in Finland in 2003. He played up front alongside Ezekiel Bala but unfortunately, Nigeria didn’t make it out of the group stages. Following the tournament, Mikel had trials with different clubs in South Africa and in Europe, eventually, he settled for Lyn Oslo in Norway where he would only play a solitary season before being picked by Samson Siasia to represent Nigeria at the World Youth Championships in Holland in 2005.

Performance after performance helped the Flying Eagles to the final where Mikel would not only lose the game but also finish behind Lionel Messi for the Golden ball award. Such was his talent that many pundits around the world opined that he and Messi were set for great careers in the biggest clubs in Europe. It didn’t take long for two of Europe’s giants, Manchester United and Chelsea to be dragged into a controversy over who signs John Obi Mikel. Eventually, Chelsea won the battle but Mikel was banned from football for a full season. In 2006, he joined Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.

The rest they say is history. 2 league titles, 3 FA Cups, 1 League Cup, 1 Community Shield and both European club titles are only a testament to the sort of trophy-laden career John Obi Mikel made for himself. By the time he was leaving in the winter of 2017, John Obi Mikel was the longest serving player at Stamford Bridge, amassing a total of 374 games and scoring 6 goals in 10 and half years.

A Chinese vacation could do no harm and one and half seasons after moving to Tiainjin TEDA, he was back in England with Middlesborough.

Since making his debut for the Super Eagles in 2005, John Obi Mikel has grown to become one of Africa’s most valuable football personalities. Three Nations Cup appearances, including a golden success in South Africa 2013 have been sandwiched around 2 World Cups appearances. He was captain at the 2016 Summer Olympics where he led Nigeria to a bronze medal.

Mikel was named captain of the Super Eagles in 2016 and even though he has not featured competitively for the Eagles since the loss to Argentina in Russia 2018, he is expected to resume leadership duties at the African Cup of Nations.

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