Mikel John Obi

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Mikel John Obi
0Full Name John Michael Nchekwube
0Date of Birth 22 April 1987
0Place of Birth Jos, Nigeria
0Position Midfielder
0Chelsea career 2006 – 2017
0Debut 13 August 2006
0Games (goals) 372 (6)
0Other clubs Plateau United
Ajax Cape Town
Lyn Oslo

John Michael Nchekwube Obinna (born 22 April 1987 in Jos, Nigeria), commonly known as Mikel John Obi, John Obi Mikel or John Mikel Obi, is a Nigerian international who played for Chelsea for more than a decade. He signed in June 2006 following a controversial transfer saga involving Lyn Oslo and Manchester United, and won every major domestic honour in England by the age of 23. He was also a key member of the 2012 UEFA Champions League-winning side.


Before Chelsea

Mikel played top-flight football in Nigeria for Plateau United at the age of just 15, and gained attention at the U-17 World Championships in Finland. It was at that tournament when his name was incorrectly submitted as "Mikel", rather than "Michael" by the Nigerian Football Association, though Mikel decided to keep the name. He then had a brief spell in South Africa with Ajax Cape Town.

Transfer controversy

Mikel then joined Norwegian side Lyn Oslo, and shortly after his 18th birthday on 29 April 2005 Manchester United announced that they had reached an agreement to sign the young Nigerian from Lyn [1]. Mikel's agents had been bypassed by United, with the club persuading the player to sign a four-year deal without representation. The transfer was reported to be worth an initial £4m to the Norwegian club, with Mikel set to arrive at Old Trafford in January 2006.

Mikel had trained with United at the age of 16, but had spent time with Chelsea over the following two years. [2] Chelsea later issued a counter-claim suggesting that they already had an agreement with Mikel and his agents, but Lyn Oslo denied this claim. However, subsequent reports indicated that Chelsea claimed to have been involved in arranging the player's original move to Europe with a view to signing him at a later date. Further substance was added to this claim after it was revealed that the player had impressed Chelsea manager José Mourinho while training with the club's first-team squad during the summer of 2004.

Mikel expressed his delight at joining United in a press conference, where he was pictured holding up a Manchester United shirt, which bore the squad number 21. On 11 May 2005, the midfielder went missing during a Norwegian Cup game against Klemetsrud; he had not been selected for the match but had been watching from the stands. Whilst the player was believed to have left with one of his agents, John Shittu, who had by now flown in to meet Mikel, his disappearance sparked massive media coverage in Norway and also provoked a police enquiry after the Lyn Oslo director Morgan Andersen made claims in the Norwegian media that Mikel had been 'kidnapped'.

It subsequently emerged that Mikel had travelled to London with his agent John Shittu. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson considered travelling to Oslo to visit Mikel, but decided against this after Mikel was reported to have left the country.[3] Staying in a London hotel, and some nine days after disappearing, Mikel stated on Sky Sports News that he had been pressured into signing the contract with United, claims furiously rebuffed by both Manchester United and Lyn Oslo.[4] Mikel also claimed that he had asked the clubs for a week to think about it, but that this request was refused and the clubs pressured him into signing without his advisors being present. Mikel's claims, if true, would mean that Manchester United had acted in breach of FIFA and FA rules. Mikel told the British media that Chelsea were the club he genuinely wanted to sign for. In response to these events, United made an official complaint to FIFA about the behaviour of both Chelsea and the player's agents, John Shittu and Rune Hauge, already infamous for his role in the George Graham bungs scandal.[5] FIFA dismissed these claims in August 2005 stating there was insufficient evidence to bring a case against Chelsea.

In the summer of 2005, Mikel again starred for his country at youth level in the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championships, helping Nigeria to the final when they lost 2-1 to Argentina. Following the tournament, Mikel failed to return to Lyn Oslo, and the club lodged a complaint with FIFA. On 12 August 2005, FIFA ruled that Mikel should return to Lyn Oslo to see out his contract with the Norwegian club, whilst they would decide at a later date whether the contract he signed with United should be upheld or cancelled.[6] After a delay of over a month, Mikel complied with the FIFA decision and returned to Lyn Oslo in early September 2005 after a three month absence.


Rather than leaving FIFA to determine the validity of the contract signed with Manchester United, Chelsea intervened by volunteering to settle the transfer saga through negotiation with Lyn Oslo and Manchester United. On 2 June 2006, Chelsea, Manchester United and Lyn Oslo reached a settlement to resolve the future of the player. Mikel's registration was to be transferred from Lyn to Chelsea; Manchester United agreed to terminate their option agreement with Mikel. Under the terms of this agreement Chelsea agreed to pay Manchester United £12 million, half paid upon the finalisation of the contract and the other half in June 2007, and Lyn £4 million, half payable immediately and half in June 2007. As a result of this settlement, all claims in this matter were withdrawn. On 19 July 2006, Chelsea were granted a work permit for the midfielder after they completed the £16 million signing in June 2006.[7]

In the aftermath of the transfer, Morgan Andersen, who had a previous conviction for forging official documents,[8] was convicted of fraud and making false accusations and given a one-year suspended jail sentence by an Oslo court. The court also ordered him to pay 20,000 kroner (£1,944) in costs.[9] Chelsea made a High Court claim for £16m against FC Lyn Oslo and Andersen following the conviction, claiming that the previously agreed settlement was not binding as "the transfer was based on a fraudulent misrepresentation, now proven by a court of law".[10] This claim was subsequently resolved out of court.[11]

Chelsea career

Having made his debut against Liverpool in the Community Shield, Mikel impressed on his first start for Chelsea on 27 September 2006, in the UEFA Champions League against Levski Sofia. However, the Nigerian's early career was characterised by indiscipline both on and off the pitch. He was sent off in a match against Reading on 14 October 2006, and was fined on three separate occasions by Chelsea for turning up late to training. At the time, Chelsea manager José Mourinho was believed to have strong reservations about his lifestyle outside of Stamford Bridge and the club were reportedly considering offloading the player. Mikel was dropped for over a month.

After improved punctuality and showings at training sessions, Mikel earned a recall for Chelsea's Champions League group away game against Werder Bremen on 22 November 2006, with Chelsea qualifying for the knock-out stage despite a defeat in Germany. Mikel scored his first goal for Chelsea in their 6-1 FA Cup victory over Macclesfield Town on 6 January 2007. He also scored against Nottingham Forest in the following round of the competition. During Chelsea's triumph in the League Cup Final in 2007 against Arsenal, Mikel was sent off in injury time (having come on as a substitute) after clashing with Kolo Touré, the incident was followed by a huge fracas, in which Touré and Emmanuel Adebayor of Arsenal were sent off, Cesc Fàbregas and Frank Lampard were booked, with managers José Mourinho and Arsené Wenger also involved.

In subsequent games, Mourinho deployed Mikel as a starter in a holding role in key games where he impressed greatly, notably in the FA Cup Sixth Round replay against Tottenham Hotspur, the Champions League quarter-final games versus Valencia, the Champions League semi-final games versus Liverpool and also the victorious FA Cup Final against Manchester United. Mikel's height and great strength, allied to good ball control and an unusually wide range of passing, allows him not only to disrupt opposing attacks, but also to spread the play effectively. With Claude Makélélé coming towards the end of his career, Mikel was widely tipped to be his successor in defensive midfield.

Mikel's development continued with 39 appearances in all competitions during the 2007-08 season, but was sent-off for the third time in his career in September 2007, when Mike Dean dismissed him for a tackle on Manchester United defender Patrice Evra. Chelsea appealed against the red card but the three-match suspension was upheld. He was also sent off in the Semi-Final of the League Cup against Everton, for a challenge on Phil Neville.

Following the departure of Claude Makélélé in the summer of 2008, Mikel was presented with the opportunity to make the defensive midfield position his own during the 2008-09 season. His main rival for the role, Michael Essien, could play elsewhere, and was injured for much of the season. Mikel impressed during his extended run in the side, earning praise from manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, a free kick from which Salomon Kalou equalised against Manchester United an example of the Nigerian's contribution to the side beyond breaking up attacks and providing protection to the defence. [12] Mikel made 49 appearances in all competitions over the course of the season, and played every minute of the 2009 FA Cup Final. Mikel was nominated for the club player and young player of the season, and on 22 July 2009 he signed a new five-year contract with Chelsea. [13]

During another season in which Michael Essien was largely absent due to injury, Mikel continued to play an important role in defensive midfield during the 2009-10 season under new manager Carlo Ancelotti. He made 35 appearances in all competitions, helping Chelsea to the League and FA Cup Double, which included the first Premier League winners' medal of the young midfielder's career. The 2010-11 season was much less successful for the Blues; a promising start undermined by a mid-season collapse as Chelsea finished the season without a trophy. Mikel continued to appear regularly in the defensive midfield role, making 37 appearances to pass the 200-appearance mark by the end of his fifth season at the club.

At the start of the 2011-12 season Mikel's father was kidnapped in Nigeria, but was released unharmed a few days later. [14] Despite this the midfielder started Chelsea's opening match of the season against Stoke City, along with the next two matches. Mikel was not involved at all in the fourth league match of the season, new signing Raul Meireles preferred in defensive midfield in a 2-1 win at Sunderland, while another new signing and rival for Mikel's place in the team – Oriol Romeu – made his debut as a late substitute. Nonetheless Mikel was generally named in the starting line-up under new manager André Villas-Boas over the opening weeks of the season, but by December he found himself increasingly utilised as a substitute, with Barcelona youth product Romeu preferred in defensive midfield by the Portuguese manager. On 22 December the Nigerian international suffered a hamstring injury in a 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur and would not return to the side until February, by which time Chelsea were in the midst of a poor run of results that would ultimately cost Villas-Boas his job. Under interim coach Roberto Di Matteo Mikel ultimately won back his place in the starting line-up as the season reached its climax, putting in solid performances in key matches to help Chelsea reach the final of the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. Mikel played every minute of both finals, and in the Champions League final in Munich he put in one of the finest performances of his Chelsea career as the Blues won the competition for the first time. Revealing that he had employed mind games at a key moment during the final, the Nigerian midfielder admitted that he had told former team-mate Arjen Robben that he would miss the extra-time penalty that could have restored the Bavarians' lead. The Dutchman saw his weak penalty duly saved by Petr Čech and Mikel later stated "When he missed the penalty we kind of believed the trophy would be ours". [15]

Mikel began the 2012-13 season as a mainstay of the starting line-up under now-permanent boss Di Matteo, and made his 250th appearance for the Blues in a Premier League match against Norwich City on 6 October. When Mourino returned for a second spell ahead of the 2013-14 season, he re-found his goalscoring touch, breaking a six-year drought whilst notching his first-ever Premier League goal in a win over Fulham.

Mourinho's departure midway through the 2015-16 season saw Hiddink return to Stamford Bridge for a second spell as Interim Manager and, once again, the Dutchman relied heavily on Mikel's steadying influence in midfield. However, when Antonio Conte was hired in the summer of 2016, the Nigerian found himself on the fringes of the first-team squad once again, falling behind Nathaniel Chalobah in the midfield rotation. Without an appearance to his name by Christmas, he agreed a deal with Chinese Super League side Tianjin TEDA in January, bringing to an end more than a decade of service at Chelsea in which he won every major honour available to him.


Much like his early club-career, Mikel's international career has been dogged by controversy. He made his debut for Nigeria's senior team as an 18 year-old on 17 August 2005, when he came on as a second-half substitute in a 1-0 friendly win over Libya. He scored 2 goals during the 2006 African Cup of Nations, but in 2007 he was suspended from all national teams when he pulled out of a match against Uganda with an injury without having the problem assessed by Nigeria's doctors, reportedly at the behest of Chelsea. [16] This had followed Mikel's participation in an earlier friendly, despite Chelsea's insistence that the player was injured. Mikel claimed that threats to his family had resulted in his decision to play [17]. Mikel had also ignored calls to play for the Nigeria U-23 side [18], but later apologised and was included in the squad for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations. There was further controversy when Mikel was left out of Nigeria's squad for the 2008 Olympics, having failed to appear in any qualifying games [19]. He missed the 2010 World Cup through injury.

In 2013 he was called up to Nigeria's 23-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations and played a key role, starting every match as the Super Eagles won the tournament for the first time since 1994. [20]


Season Prem FA Cup League Cup Europe Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
2006-07 22 0 6 2 4 0 9 0 1 0 42 2
2007-08 29 0 2 0 3 0 4 0 1 0 39 0
2008-09 34 0 5 0 1 0 9 0 0 0 49 0
2009-10 25 0 3 0 2 0 4 0 1 0 35 0
2010-11 28 0 2 0 0 0 6 0 1 0 37 0
2011-12 22 0 5 0 1 0 9 0 0 0 37 0
2012-13 22 0 3 0 1 0 9 0 3 0 38 0
2013-14 24 1 2 1 2 0 7 0 1 0 36 2
2014-15 18 0 2 0 4 0 2 1 0 0 26 1
2015-16 25 0 2 0 2 0 4 1 0 0 33 1
2016-17 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 249 1 32 3 20 0 63 2 8 0 372 6

Correct as of Mikel's departure


# Season Date Year Competition Opponent Score Result Venue
12006-0706 January2007FA CupMacclesfield Town5-16-1Stamford Bridge
22006-0728 January2007FA CupNottingham Forest3-03-0Stamford Bridge
32013-1421 September2013Premier LeagueFulham2-02-0Stamford Bridge
42013-1405 January2014FA CupDerby County1-02-0Pride Park
52014-1510 December2014UEFA Champions LeagueSporting Lisbon3-13-1Stamford Bridge
62015-1616 February2016UEFA Champions LeagueParis Saint-Germain1-11-2Parc des Princes




Premier League:

FA Cup:

League Cup:

UEFA Champions League:

UEFA Europa League:

FA Community Shield:



Africa Cup of Nations:

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