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Mikel, John Obi

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John Obi Mikel

Written by Loz and updated August 2009

John Obi Mikel, Mikel John Obi, Obi Wan, Mickey Boy….which one of these is his real name? The answer is….. none of them. His birth name is John Michael Nchekube Obinna, a challenge for any football chant writer I am sure you will agree.

Born in Jos, which is almost slap bang in the middle of Nigeria, on the 22nd April 1987 Obi Mikel (then still called John Michael etc etc) had already made his professional debut for Plateau United before turning sixteen and in 2003 he started to make his mark on the wider of football with some impressive performances in the FIFA U17 World Championships. It was during this tournament the seed of the idea to change his name to one that Daily Mail journalists could spell was sown. Commentators regularly mispronounced the Michael as Mikel and John Boy decided he quite liked it. As for why he dropped the Nchekube, the ‘nna’ and shuffled the names round – well that, like the many unpublished Secret Seven tales, will remain a mystery!

[[fimg]=left]http://www.theshedend.com/fansite/images/Current_Squad/John_Obi_Mikel/mikel%20at%20lynn%20oslo.jpg[/[fimg]] Anyway back to the action, and I am not referring to the Mod’s home video collection (I tell you that lad has got contacts). Mikel then had a short spell at Ajax Cape Town in South Africa and not long after this he moved to Lyn Oslo although I can’t find too much information on this move or his time there.

Which pretty much gets us to the juicy stuff, the transfer that rocked the world, brought down empires, led to the slaughter of 75,000,000 innocent lambs and created a seismic disruption that plunged the world into 30 years of darkness. Oh and there were locusts as well. Where you stand on the rights and wrongs of what happened pretty much depends on what colour shirt you wear however if the truth ever comes out I would guess there was some ‘wrong doing’ on the part of every party (maybe no always legal wrong doing but probably some questionable scruples).

[[fimg]=right]http://www.theshedend.com/fansite/images/Current_Squad/John_Obi_Mikel/mikel%20in%20man%20utd%20top.jpg[/[fimg]] So what do we know as fact. Well it is fact that Mikel trained with Chelsea back in the summer of 2004. It isn’t necessarily fact that Chelsea organised his move to Lyn Oslo however that is the claim they made, adding that their involvement in this deal was motivated by a longer term plan to bring him to Chelsea. However it is also fact that the bottom line is that without a signature on a contract any amount of involvement in previous transactions counts for very little.

And a signature on a four year contract is exactly what Manchester United got a matter of days after Mikel turned 18. The contract itself was said to have been signed by the player without any of his agents being present or involved in the negotiations (not exactly the norm in this day and age, and certainly not when the player in question is being touted as a superstar of the future).

At the same time Lyn Oslo were alleged to have contacted Mikel’s representatives to tell them that Mikel no longer wanted them to act as his agents. Suddenly Chelsea jumped up like a cat that had had its tail caught between a fridge and a hot iron. They claimed that a deal had already been struck with Mikel, and that deal had involved Mikel’s agents. Meanwhile there was a slightly shambolic press conference in which Mikel was shown holding a United top, I say shambolic as it had the look of one of G4’s rubber hulk home videos about it. Within no time there were all sorts of rumours coming out of Norway that threatening phone calls had been made to Mikel (though nobody stated who they were alleged to have been made by). Initially Mikel was assigned security and then, in May 2005, he simply went missing whilst on duty for Lyn Oslo. It was known that his, now infamous, agent John sh*ttu had met Mikel that day and it was rumoured they left the stadium together however it was soon being claimed by Lyn Oslo that Mikel had been kidnapped, a claimed repeated later by failed Real Madrid manager and Carlos Queiroz who went as far as pointing the finger at Chelsea as a guilty party in the kidnapping.

[[fimg]=left]http://www.theshedend.com/fansite/images/Current_Squad/John_Obi_Mikel/mikel%20gun.jpg[/[fimg]] As I recall there was no apology forthcoming from Queiroz when it transpired that Mikel was actually en route to London with sh*ttu (and as far as I know this was by aeroplane rather than stuffed in a box in a dark vault on an unmarked shipping boat that moored under the cover of darkness somewhere off Plymouth). Then it really kicked off! Mikel gave Sky Sports something Andy Gray can only dream about, gripping football TV. Appearing on Sky Sports News Mikel stated that he had been bullied into signing the United contract, with both United and Lyn Oslo accused of forcing him to sign without his agents being present to advise him.

Lyn Oslo and United’s lips wobbled like an old ladies breasts in an unsupportive bikini. United’s lip then took on a life of its own when Mikel went on to say that Chelsea were the club he wanted to sign for. Within no time United lodged a complaint with FIFA about both Chelsea and Mikel’s agents (sh*ttu and Rune Hauge)- FIFA told them to bog off as there was bugger all evidence to build a case against Chelsea.

[[fimg]=right]http://www.theshedend.com/fansite/images/Current_Squad/John_Obi_Mikel/mikel%20world%20youth.gif[/[fimg]] That summer Mikel really made his mark with a series of impressive performances in the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship, narrowly missing out on a winners medal when Nigeria were beaten in the final by a Messi inspired Argentina. Following the tournament Mikel was supposed to go back to Lyn Oslo but when this didn’t happen the club lodged a complaint with FIFA who ruled that Mikel had to go back to Lyn until such time as the contract argument was concluded. It was to be over a month before Mikel agreed to go back (September 2005).

In the following months much mud got slung and fingers were pointed so many times that even the British tabloids were struggling to make up a story better than the real thing. However eventually, as always, money talked and a settlement was reached between Chelsea, United and Lyn Oslo which basically boiled down to Chelsea paying £16m, £4m of which went to Lyn Oslo in two instalments and the balance of £12m going to United for a player that never kicked a ball in training , let alone anger, in a red shirt.

[[fimg]=left]http://www.theshedend.com/fansite/images/Current_Squad/John_Obi_Mikel/obi%20miekl%20first%20at%20chelsea.jpg[/[fimg]] That Chelsea paid out £16m was perceived by many as being an admission of guilt on their part (otherwise why not stick to their guns) and I admit I was far from comfortable with the deal. However with all this now behind him and a Chelsea contract signed surely Mikel would be looking forward to getting his head down, keeping out of trouble and looking forward to resurrecting his career and proving that, for Chelsea, it was a battle worth fighting. Well you have thought so wouldn’t you. But that isn’t exactly how it panned out

[[fimg]=right]http://www.theshedend.com/fansite/images/Current_Squad/John_Obi_Mikel/nikel%20sent%20off%20agianst%20reading.jpg[/[fimg]] His Chelsea career started off well enough with some encouraging performances which hinted at a player with a football maturity beyond his years. However in the game against Reading on October 14th 2006, a game that will be forever remembered for sickening injuries to Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini, Mikel was sent off for two bookable offences, the second being a stupid tug back on Sonko. Not the most memorable full Premiership debut and certainly not something that pleased Jose Mourinho.

Mikel’s attitude off the field was then brought into question by showing up late for training (something that earned him a number of fines) and also rumours that he was rarely seen without a gaggle of hangers on. In particular it was rumoured that Mourinho himself took matters into his own hands and sent Mikel’s entourage packing from the Chelsea training ground (note this is very much ‘allegedly’ rather than hard fact). Never one to suffer indiscipline Jose made his feelings clear on the matter and Mikel found himself out of the first team for the best part of a month. Even Mikel’s Father spoke out critically about his son’s behaviour. Just maybe that personal criticism was the wake up call Mikel needed because he appeared to knuckle down in training and earned himself a recall to the first team in November.

[[fimg]=left]http://www.theshedend.com/fansite/images/Current_Squad/John_Obi_Mikel/mikel%20and%20carvalho%20celebrate%20carvalhos%20goal.gif[/[fimg]] Mikel’s first goal in a Chelsea shirt came in what, on paper, was a 6-1 thumping of Macclesfield Town in the FA Cup in January 2007 however the result is a tad misleading as four of our goals came after their keeper had been sent off and an outfield player had to go in nets due to them not having a reserve keeper on the bench. Mikel scored the fifth of the six, and it was the pick of the bunch, a cracking volley from the edge of the box.

There is some debate about what his best position in the team is, is in the holding role, more commonly known as the Makelele role, or is it slightly further forward playing where someone like Ballack or Lampard might play. Personally I think he is most effective playing in the Makelele role but not in the same way that Makelele does (to be honest trying to copy Makelele is near on impossible). Mikel is remarkably comfortable on the ball for someone so young and the way he remains calm in possession when under pressure reminds me a little of Desailly in his prime. He has that ability to make the yard of space for himself that other players often fail to and as such is rarely forced into rash decisions. So I can see him playing in the holding role and although he won’t protect the back four a effectively as Makelele does I think he will ‘encourage’ the other central midfielders to play further forward as he will take control of the centre of the patch.

[[fimg]=right]http://www.theshedend.com/fansite/images/Current_Squad/John_Obi_Mikel/lc%202007%20brawl.jpg[/[fimg]] 2007 saw Chelsea win the League Cup in a final that climaxed in some grade A handbags and a triple sending off, Arsenal’s Toure and Adebayor trudged off along with Mikel. The whole thing was a comical affair of multi million pound football players behaving like kids scuffling over the last copy of the Beano in the shop however Mikel could rightly feel a tad hard done by to be given his marching orders.

In fact the ref, in retrospect got a number of the cards wrong; however in fairness to him it was pretty hard to determine exactly who had done what in amongst the melee. Mikel also played the full 120 minutes of the 2007 FA Cup final in which a late Didier Drogba goal secured the trophy for Chelsea against Manchester United.

[[fimg]=left]http://www.theshedend.com/fansite/images/Current_Squad/John_Obi_Mikel/mikel%20nigeria.jpg[/[fimg]] Although Mikel does appear to have settled down at Chelsea and his behaviour/attitude improved this is not something that the Nigerian FA would agree with. Mikel had already put their backs up when he refused to play for the Nigerian U23 side and then pulled out of a ACN Qualifier against Uganda due to injury, an injury that the Nigerian FA asked to be verified by an independent party. Mikel failed to turn up for the scheduled check and was subsequently dropped from the international side. Eventually he wrote a letter of apology to the Nigerian FA and after Nigeria’s manager Berti Vogts initially still refusing to select him he was then forgiven and once more restored to the international team.

So in terms of temperament Chelsea clearly have a player that will continue to cause off field headlines. In terms of talent we have one of the most talented youngsters in world football. Calm on the ball, comfortable with both feet, bloody huge, strong and powerful and has already mastered the art of keeping things simple. Unfortunately he has terrible taste in hats!

Mikel had a solid if not spectacular start to the 2007/08 season. Against Man Utd in the Community Shield I thought he was one of our better performers in a somewhat subdued overall performance. In the second game of the season he came off the bench at half time and, for me, was instrumental in helping Chelsea turn around the 0-1 half time deficit. He then played the full 90 minutes against Liverpool and came in for some criticism for his performance which although I felt was harsh I would say that I would have rather seen Makelele play. His season was to get worse before it got better.

[[fimg]=right]http://www.theshedend.com/fansite/images/Current_Squad/John_Obi_Mikel/mikel%20vs%20man%20city%20oct%2027.gif[/[fimg]] The shock sacking of Jose Mourinho and appointment of Avram Grant means Chelsea went into a massive match at Old Trafford as well prepared as I would be for a part as Brad Pitt's body double. A tough ask became a whole lot harder when Mikel was ridiculously sent off after only half an hour of the game. We lost 2-0 and Mike Dean should have lost a bollock. On his return after suspension he established himself as a first team regular and impressed away at Derby and in the away defeat to Arsenal.

His performances in the first half of the season did little to help determine where his best position is. His calmness in possession and ability with either feet continues to impress however he still has a bad habit of losing the plot from time to time and lunging into a challenge he has no business being in. Michael Ballack's return from injury and the calibre of his performances since returning very much suggest Mikel will be more often than not employed in the holding role. Against Fulham on New Year's Day Mikel started on the bench with Essien in the holding role and Sidwell employed alongside Ballack. By half time it was apparent that Sidwell was well out of his depth and Essien was being wasted. The introduction of Mikel for Sidwell freed up Essien and the combination of that, and the fact Ballack could concentrate on his own game rather than covering for Sidwell, saw a second half performance which was in direct contrast to the poor fair of the first 45 minutes.

In early January we waved farewell to Mikel as he joined Essien, Kalou and Drogba on their quest for African Cup of Nations glory however before he did he was to treat us to one last bit of Mikel rashness. Chelsea were 1-0 up and firmly in control of the first leg of the Carling Cup semi final against Everton when Mikel threw himself into a tackle on Phil Neville which resulted in a second red card of the season for him. No denying that the decision was harsh and a yellow card was ample for the challenge however there is no getting away form the fact that the tackle was near the half way line, entirely unnecessary and given the fact that refs had been sending players off for very similar tackles just days before in a couple of FA Cup ties it was not the smartest decision on his part. The most frustrating thing was that up until that point (55th minute) he had been having a very fine game and forming an impressive partnership in the middle of the park alongside Ballack.

[[fimg]=left]http://www.theshedend.com/fansite/images/Current_Squad/John_Obi_Mikel_2/mikel%20bolton.gif[/[fimg]] Of the four players selected to start the Carling Cup final in midfield (Lampard, Essien and SWP being the other three) Mikel was the least poor. Despite this he was still actually awful. Due to this, or possibly the fact that the legal wrangling over his transfer was about to re-appear in court (with their being a distinct possibility that Man Utd would need to repay the £16m we paid for Mikel) he vanished out of the first team reckoning without a trace.

It was a month before he returned to first team duties but when he did return he featured regularly for the rest of the season although he didn't feature in our Champions League final defeat at the hands of Man Utd (though he was on the bench).

In the summer of 2008 new Chelsea manager Felipe Scolari brought in Deco from Barcelona but also let Makelele leave on a free transfer. How Scolari would choose to juggle his first team squad was to be a key factor in determining how many games Mikel got. Mikel’s start to the season was somewhat mysterious (I mean in the ‘why?’ kind of way rather than the Scooby Doo kind of way) in that he had a superb match as the holding midfielder against Portsmouth in our opening day win and then promptly dropped out of sight. There was no talk of an injury although we were left convinced that could be the only explanation as we witnessed Essien struggle against Wigan and then Belletti selected to play the holding role against Spurs.

[[fimg]=right]http://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll244/loz1905/Mikel1.gif[/[fimg]] It took a serious injury to Essien (which wiped out most of his season) to open the door for Mikel and he grabbed the opportunity as tightly as a Scotsman holds onto his wallet. He was good against Man City and then superb against Bordeaux and Manchester United. His all round form carried on, against Middlesbrough the whole team, including Mikel played well and then in the Champions League we put in a fairly average team performance to beat Roma 1-0 at the Bridge but Mikel was, for me, head and shoulders above every player on the park.

Just as Mikel was proving every single doubter wrong (single doubter being ‘Liam’) he went and proved them right, at least for one game. Chelsea travelled to Rome to take on an out of sorts Roma in the Champions League. A win would mean we had qualified with two games to spare. We were woeful, lost 3-1, and Mikel was culpable for two of the goals with really basic errors.

Mikel went on to make 55 appearances in total in 2008/09 (34 in the Premiership) and, for me, he developed well without ever convincing those who doubt him that they are mistaken. He was a lot less rash in the tackle, something which I felt might be down to playing regularly rather than being in and out of the team and always feeling like he has to make a big impression, and he capped the season by playing the full 90 minutes in our FA Cup final win over Everton.

The start of the 2009/10 season saw Chelsea adopt Ancelotti's preferred diamond formation and Mikel, initially, was picked to play at the base. However his form was erratic in the opening games and the reurgence of Ballack saw Mikel benched, and Essien played alongside Ballack in the adapted diamond (comically know as the christmas tree formation)

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