Opinion: How money killed Mikel Obi’s career in 2006

by Mansur Abubakar

Like most African players who go to Europe in search of greener pastures, the Plateau State-born player signed for Chelsea, which offered more money but altered his position to a defensive midfield role instead of going to Manchester United which would have played him in his natural position and allowed his career to flourish.

As Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel was having a chit chat with manager Jose Mourinho before his introduction in yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United in Old Trafford everyone knew what the game plan was. I couldn’t help but cast my mind back to 2005 when Obi was only second to Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in terms of attacking prowess and flair on the ball, now the only thing the former Lyn player is known for is being a “spoiler” and Mourinho’s number one “anti-football agent”.

 Whenever passionate football lovers who really want to see two teams play an attacking style, going at each other non-stop see Mikel warming up, waiting to be introduced (the players rarely get a starting berth these days) they feel sad for football and for the player himself, who had so much potential.

Unfortunately a single act in 2006 changed his fortunes and is likely to see him end his career in Europe as an “also ran”, instead of the standout player we all knew he could be when he took the world by storm by representing Nigeria’s under-20 team at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship, winning the Silver Ball for the second-best player at the tournament (behind Lionel Messi) as the Flying Eaglets finished runner-up to Argentina.

Mikel’s problems started in 2006 when he was faced with the option of either joining Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United (which he already had an agreement with) or joining Mourinho’s emerging Chelsea team when the Roman Abramovich revolution was massively taking shape with stars like Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, and Claude Makelele forming the core of the blues midfield at the time.

Like most African players who go to Europe in search of greener pastures, the Plateau State-born player signed for Chelsea, which offered more money but altered his position to a defensive midfield role instead of going to Manchester United which would have played him in his natural position and allowed his career to flourish.

That single signature confirming his contract with the London club in the year 2006 killed and buried Mikel’s career as far as most people are concerned because it meant he was no longer the stand out he had always been throughout his career, instead becoming someone only introduced to the game to stop others from playing and “killing” the game.

As part of the Super Eagles where Mikel is made to assume the attacking midfielder’s role, he finds it difficult to adapt, hence his below par performances which attract huge criticism from millions of Nigeria’s football followers.

Some might argue that Mikel has had eight trophy-laden years with Chelsea, which is the measure of success in football, but the stand-out players always enjoy every trophy more because of their massive contributions to the cause, as stated by Fernando Torres who admitted he doesn’t feel part of the success of Chelsea winning the UEFA Champions League in 2012, due to his bit part role in the team.

I keep wondering if Mikel, when alone and away from the entire buzz that comes along with being a high profile player, looks back that single act in 2006 and what might have been if he took a different direction in his quest to become world’s number one player.


This article was published with permission from Sahara Reporters

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (9)

  1. Femi may your brain not go awkward. I love your write up. I think Nigerian bloggers should think properly and stop being sentimental in their stupid reasoning.

    1. You’re soo right peter. I hope people see in from that view sometimes

  2. Well this write up was best described as an opinion, but I must say I totally disagree with it, though Mikel hasn’t been up to his potential no doubt but truth be told, Going to manchester would have been a suicide to his career. I would like to be reminded if am wrong, No black race player has flourished at Manchester United. Even when they are doing exceptional well prior to their move to Manchester United, they either become a write off after that move or become forgotten player. I would list some of such players; Djemba Djemba, Quinton Fortune, Manucho, Pogba ( the only notable exception), Even Saha was reduced to just an average striker at Manchester United compared to what he used to be while at Fulham. Well my take on Mikel’s career is for him to try and do some improvement personally on his game because he is so relaxed at the level which he is at. I could recall when it was said that Mikel was one of the very few players at Chelsea who doesn’t take extra training session after regular training to fine tone his game. Mikel wake Up, the potential is in you! Peace………………..

    1. Brilliantly said olayinka, my point exactly

  3. These are the corrects u asked!
    1.Quinton Fortune was fully utilized, just got benched for D. Beckham
    2. Manucho had issues with working permit.
    3. D. York and A. Cole though not Africans, but were fully utilized.
    4. The writer compared Mikel to a player (Messi) @ a time they were d subject of debate that Mikel wud have been the better player, yrs after, Messi hasn’t just been decorated with team trophies but a lot of individual award, we are yet to see Mikel. If we were both in same class, and you always beat me to no 1 position, I shud also show you after yrs that I can still be giving u a run for ur success now. Have ever watch Ronaldo’s documentary and see passion for development? We question Mikel’s passion for development.
    5 You said he was a good midfielder at Nation’s Cup 13, and you think will want to compare him to T. Yaya?

    A lot went wrong with Mikel the moment he joined Chelsea!!!

    1. Manucho got his work permit settled later and played , Quinton Fortune played hin 3 premierleague winning season for Us and NEVER won a medal meaning He didn’t play up tp required 10 games needed. Call that Utilization? Don’t think so. The rest as far as am concer aint african. And Yes at the “13 Nations Cup” Mikel was better than T yaya.
      Mikel yes we know stlye of play changed buh he needs few commendation for his longitivity as african (which isn’t common) other than the criticism he gets always

  4. If i remember well he and messi started their careers together. Where is Messi today? it is always good to be humbly http://www.naijazine.com

  5. Its quite dissapointing that a Nigerian will write a myopic article.like this. Am not a chelsea fan so let’s leave sentiment aside the honest truth is, do you think Mikel Obi will be given chance of 90min play under sir alex comparred to jose mouriho? Pls I stand to be corrected buh how many african have Man Utd signed and yet they played them fully well and utilized them to their full capacity. NONE!!!!!. The so called african rising star of Angola then “MAnucho” what happened to him under Man UtD? Same thing tht wuld hav happend to out own john Obi Mikel if he had made that wrong move to Man U.
    A team like chelsea which has changed many managers from 2006 more than most teams in Euro yet all those manager still decide to keep Mikel in their squad. Have you ever asked urself why? Roberto Di mateo said that Mikel is one player that even if you don’t start is one that keep ur mind rest assured that can the game defensively if introduced in”.
    From 2005 till date pls again I stand to be corrected, tell me one player apart from J O Mikel that has been decorated with many trophies apart from Mikel or that has lastest longitivity in both Club and country apart from MiKEL. Best Mid fielder at the last Nations Cup aint childs play.
    As a Man Utd fan, I feel Mikel made the best decision goin to chelsea other than Man UTD. In short I feel he should be celebrated other than a ridiculus article like this written abt him. My name is FEMI

  6. Words well spoken. I think is a majority naija’s attitude with ‘the big boy syndrome’

    The problem with a lot of Naija pipo be say we value the ‘OWO’ more than being a ‘history maker’.

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