Monday, November 15, 2010

Mikel Obi - between club and country

New Super Eagles coach, Samson Siasia, on Monday blurted out at Chelsea, criticising the premier league side for destroying John Mikel Obi's game. In this report, Salifu Usman x-rays Mikel's commitment to his club and fatherland.

Samson Siasia, shortly after his appointment as the Super Eagles coach, voiced his opinion about the effect of Chelsea's playing tactics on Mikel John Obi. Siasia lamented that Mikel's natural attacking instincts have been stamped out of his game entirely since moving to the English top flight. "The system in Chelsea actually destroyed Mikel's game," said Siasia. "Mikel is an offensive player, but when he moved to Chelsea, they changed him because they had a better player offensivewise, like Frank Lampard, who can score goals. What Jose Mourinho did was to bring Mikel back, because how many goals has Mikel scored? He brought him back so that Lampard and Ballack could play in the offensive."

Coach Siasia wasn't done: "I don't think he is playing in his natural position, because we all saw what Mikel played in 2005 and everybody loved him for what he did; he can keep the ball and create chances for the strikers to score goals."

Siasia's comments were born out of his frustration to find a creative midfielder who will drive his new Super Eagles. The 23-year-old Mikel, who was five years ago in Holland adjudged the second best player at the Under-20 World Cup behind Lionel Messi, is expected to play a big role in the Super Eagles under Siasia. Since the exit of Austin Jay Jay Okocha from the Super Eagles, Nigeria has been left without a consistently fine creative midfielder to direct Eagles' midfield, and after Mikel's superlative performance at the Under-20 level, it was largely expected by Nigerian soccer fans that the former young African Player of the Year would step into Okocha's shoes. But that did not come be, as the player's attacking instincts have been changed to defensive contentment by Chelsea's compelling structure.

Siasia advised the 23-year-old player to quit Chelsea and move to a club which can accommodate him in an attacking midfield position. However, the player himself is happy at the Bridge and does not intend to move away from his current club. "He has to start playing more offensive to become the Mikel we knew, because it would be difficult to change the way he is playing; he has to move to another club," Siasia said, matter-of-factly.

It has often been a topic of public debate by Nigerians on how Mikel's game is radically different when he pulls on Chelsea's shirt compared to when he plays for the national team. And now, Siasia has added his voice to it by asking the player to do more to his game. "Mikel is a fantastic player, but if you want to be a great player, you have to take risks, do something extra. As a defensive midfielder, you do not have to do much; you just win the ball and pass to the other player. The offensive player takes on more responsibilities," said the man who knows enough about the player.

In the summer of 2005, Mikel, after having an excellent tournament with Nigeria at the FIFA U-20 World Cup where they lost 1-2 to Argentina in the final, had the opportunity to join Manchester United which would have turned him to a better player of Nigeria's dream. Manchester United announced that it had struck a deal with Lyn Oslo to sign the player. United claimed that they had done a deal directly with the teenager and that he had signed a contract to join them. Mikel's agents were bypassed as the club persuaded the youngster to sign a 4-year contract without representation. Lyn Oslo allegedly sent a fax to his agents abroad, claiming their services were no longer required by Mikel. Reports said the deal was initially worth £4m and would see the player arrive at Old Trafford in January 2006.

Premier League rivals, 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 then 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 at a hastily arranged press conference, where he was pictured holding up a Manchester United shirt, which bore the squad number 21. But Mikel later insisted he was


Related stories: Samson Siasia appointed as new Super Eagles coach

Obi Mikel has improved, says Ancelotti

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