Controversial to say the least. John Obi Mikel’s arrival was not only very confusing, but outrageous in its own way. First he signed for Manchester United, and then said he wanted to join Chelsea and eventually signed for the Blues. Once the smoke had died down, Chelsea announced the signing of a young Nigerian midfielder named John Obi Mikel. The question is, nearly 5 years on from his transfer, should the player be regretting his choice to choose Chelsea over United?
Mikel was 18 when he signed for Chelsea and was seen as a hot prospect for the future. Chelsea had won two consecutive league titles and were beginning to make waves in World football. At the time, they had arguably the best holding midfielder in the World in the shape of Claude Makelele. For Mikel, an aspiring defensive midfielder, what better opportunity to learn than from a master himself?
Joining the Galacticos of England would have been an excitement in itself. Russian money was fuelling the club and it is understandable to see why a young player, albeit possibly naive and heavily influenced by his advisors, would choose Chelsea over United at that current time. Despite his age, Mikel started 24 games and scored twice in his first season, as well as winning the African Young Player of the Year Award for the second year running.
For a young player at a club like Chelsea that is a good total. The Nigerian midfielder has gone on to represent the Blues in over 110 games and recently signed a new contract at Stamford Bridge.
If Mikel had joined United, he would have joined a team that is brimming with young talent. There is no doubt that when it comes to dealing with young players, Alex Ferguson is a master. The only regret for Mikel is that he missed the chance to work under such an influential and successful manager. Mourinho may have been the ‘special one’ at the time but in terms of history and reputation, Ferguson is rivalled by very few managers. Thinking about it, where would Mikel be right now if he was at United? Possibly 4th or 5th choice midfielder?
Had he joined United, he may not have been given the amount of playing time he received at Chelsea. Ferguson is a renowned fan of patience when it comes to young players. Also, Mikel has had a few disciplinary problems in his time at Stamford Bridge. A big question would be, by turning up late and with bad press regarding his private life; would he have survived under Sir Alex? It may be a point to note that Manchester United are probably not regretting missing out on his signature. Would United fans rather have Mikel in their team over Carrick, Fletcher or Scholes? I doubt it very much.
To be a holding midfielder at United you have to be mobile, something that Mikel has not got in abundance. At Chelsea his job is simple, break up play and provide to ball for Lampard and Co to use. If you ask me which team he would be better suited in, I’d say Chelsea every time.
At Chelsea Mikel is comfortable. He is playing fairly regularly and learning from some of the best midfielders in the World. Unlike the rest of the Chelsea midfield, Mikel has age on his side. He has time to wait in the knowledge that, should he continue to improve, he will be a big part of the future at Chelsea football club.
Time will tell for John Obi Mikel