John Obi Mikel will go down as one of Nigeria's greatest players, having earned his spot among the most decorated African footballers.
John Obi Mikel announced his retirement from football yesterday, Tuesday, 27th September 2022. It brought an end to his 20 years illustrious career.
The midfielder won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2012, made 91 appearances for Nigeria and helped the Super Eagles win the 2013 AFCON — before retiring from international football in 2019.
Mikel announced his retirement in an Instagram post saying:
‘‘There is a saying that ‘all good things must come to an end’, and for my professional football career, that day is today,’’
‘‘I look back at the past 20 years of my career, and I must say that I am very satisfied with all that I was able to achieve and more importantly the human it has helped shape.
‘’All of this would not have been possible without the unwavering support of my family, managers, clubs, coaches, team-mates and most importantly my ever-loyal fans. You supported me through my highs and lows, even on days that I did not live up to your expectations. I say a big thank you.
‘‘I will also like to encourage everyone who I may have inspired one way or the other in the course of my career to never give up on their dreams, for every time you think about quitting, remind yourself why you started.
‘‘This is not goodbye, it’s the start of another journey, another chapter of my life. I look forward to what the future holds and I hope you will walk with me. Thank you.’’
In this article, FootballOrbit looks at Mikel Obi’s storied career.
John Obi Mikel — the 7th child in a family of eight — started his football career at the age of 12 when he got picked as a talented youngster by Pepsi Football Academy. It was from the academy that he joined NPFL side, Plateau United.
He came into limelight when representing Nigeria’s youth teams.
He was actually born with the name Michael and not “Mikel”.
During preparations for the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Cup, the Nigerian Football Association (NFA) mistakenly submitted his name as “Mikel” instead of “Michael”.
He decided to keep the new name and was most commonly referred to as “John Obi Mikel” upon his arrival at Chelsea, but he stated that he prefers to be called Mikel John Obi instead.
He officially changed his name to Mikel John Obi in 2016.
Having starred for Nigeria at the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Finland, Mikel represented the Nigeria U-20 team at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship and won the Silver Ball as the second-best player of the tournament (behind Lionel Messi) — as Nigeria finished as runner-up to Argentina.
His performances also earned him the 2005 CAF Most Promising Talent of the Year award.
Following the tournament, he went for a trial at South African club Ajax Cape Town but eventually joined Norwegian club Lyn Oslo.
On the 29th of April 2005 (just a few days after Mikel turned 18), Manchester United announced that they had agreed a £4 million deal with Lyn to sign the player.
But Chelsea claimed that they already have an agreement in place with him even before he joined Lyn Oslo — and they had in fact arranged his transfer to Lyn in the first place, in order to secure a work permit.
Mikel Obi later claimed that he was pressured to join Man Utd.
Chelsea eventually negotiated an agreement with both the Red Devils and Lyn to complete Mikel’s £16 million signing in June 2006.
John Mikel Obi made his senior international debut for Nigeria on the 17th of August 2005.
In 2007, he was suspended from all Nigerian national teams for failing to attending a match. Mikel claimed to be injured but refused to attend an independent check by Nigerian medical officials.
He later tendered an apology before his suspension was lifted.
John Obi Mikel at Chelsea
Mikel had a troubled start to his Chelsea career as he couldn’t break into Jose Mourinho’s first team and was also having disciplinary issues.
Due to the presence of established midfielders like Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Claude Makelele and Michael Ballack and also to get more playing time; Mourinho started deploying Mikel Obi as a holding or defensive midfielder — instead of his natural role as an attacking midfielder.
As a defensive midfielder, Obi’s height and great strength — coupled with his brilliant ball control and immaculate range of passing — allowed him not only to disrupt opposing attacks, but also to spread the play effectively.
He effectively replaced Makelele in the lineup following the latter’s departure to PSG.
Mikel helped Chelsea win the League Cup and the FA Cup in 2007. He also won the 2007 Chelsea Young Player of the Year award.
In 2008, he was part of the Chelsea side that agonisingly lost the Premier League title, FA Cup final and most painfully, the Champions League final.
He retained his Chelsea Young Player of the Year award in 2008.
John Obi Mikel established himself as an integral player for the Blues and helped them win the Premier League and FA Cup in 2009/10 — Chelsea’s first ever league & cup double win.
2010 World Cup disappointment
On the 5th of June 2010, Mikel was ruled out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa due to injury.
On the 10th of August 2011, his father was abducted in Nigeria. Despite this, Mikel played in Chelsea’s match versus Stoke City.
The father was later released after 12 days.
Champions League glory
Obi was instrumental as Chelsea won the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League in 2012.
He was named Man of the Match in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich as the Blues won the competition for the first time in history.
At the 2013 AFCON, Mikel was a key player for Nigeria as the Super Eagles won the continental title for the third time.
He was named in the Team of the Tournament.
Moreso, as a result of his performances at the AFCON, he was runner-up for the 2013 African Footballer of the Year.
Mikel scored his first ever Premier League goal in Chelsea’s 2-0 win against Fulham on the 21st September 2013.
He helped Chelsea win the 2013 Europa League as the Blues defeated Benfica 2-1 in the final.
Mikel made his debut appearance at the World Cup during the 2014 tournament in Brazil. He was named Man of the Match in Nigeria’s opening match versus Iran.
He helped the Super Eagles reach the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time since 1998.
He was part of the Chelsea side that won Premier League during Jose Mourinho’s second spell at Stamford Bridge in 2014/15.
Olympic bronze and end to John Obi Mikel’s Chelsea career
John Obi Mikel was among the four senior players that were included in Nigeria’s football squad to the Olympics in 2016. He scored a goal as Nigeria won the bronze medal.
Furthermore, Nigeria became the first ever country to win all three medals at the Olympic Games with the 1996 squad winning gold and the 2008 squad winning silver.
But……Mikel’s participation at the Olympics did not please Chelsea’s then-new manager, Antonio Conte.
Consequently, the Italian did not include him in his plans at Stamford Bridge and eventually forced him out of the club.
On the 4th of November 2016, Chelsea announced that Obi’s contract would not be renewed when it expires at the end of the season.
It brought an end to his 11-year association with the Blues — with whom he made 372 appearances.
On the 6th of January 2017, Mikel joined Chinese club Tianjin TEDA on a free transfer. In November 2018, he departed the club at the end of the 2018 Chinese Super League season
He represented Nigeria at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, where the Eagles crashed out at the group stage.
In June 2018 — a few hours before a FIFA World Cup match — Mikel’s father was kidnapped again for the second time in Nigeria. The Police rescued the father on the 2nd of July after a gunfight.
After two years in China, Mikel joined English Championship team Middlesbrough on a short-term deal in the 2019 winter transfer window.
He made 19 appearances for Boro, scoring once as the team narrowly missed out on a play-off spot, finishing 7th. He was released by Middlesbrough at the end of the 2018/19 season.
John Obi Mikel retired from international football after the 2019 AFCON, in which Nigeria finished in 3rd place.
He made a total of 91 appearances for Nigeria and scored 6 goals.
He later played for Trabzonspor, Stoke City and Kuwait SC.
End of an era
On the 27th of September 2022, Mikel announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 35.
John Obi Mikel surely had an illustrious career in which he won: 2 Premier League titles, 2 FA Cups, the League Cup, Community Shield, UEFA Champions League, Europa League, Turkish Cup, AFCON and an Olympic bronze medal.
He will go down as one of Nigeria’s greatest players, having earned his spot among the most decorated African footballers.
For Chelsea fans, they will always have fond memories of that glorious Champions League final performance in 2012 — when Mikel was named Man of the Match.
Mikel joins the list of notable footballers that retired in 2022.