Mourinho Rues Converting Mikel to a Combative Midfielder

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  • Says Nigeria lost a good No.6 to get a bad No.10

By Duro Ikhazuagbe in St Petersburg

Manchester United Manager, Jose Mourinho, insisting Tuesday that Nigerian captain, John Mikel Obi, may have been under-performing at the ongoing World Cup here in Russia because he’s not playing the right role in the Super Eagles.

Mourinho, who snatched the young Mikel from the grip of rival Manchester United for Chelsea in 2006, converted the former Lyn Oslo (Norway) playmaker to a defensive midfielder.

Now, the decision of the then Chelsea gaffer is hurting him as his former player has failed to adapt well to his traditional attacking midfield role for Nigeria.

The United coach who is here as a pundit for Russian TV station, RT, in one of his analysis of matches played so far in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup said while referring to Mikel in Nigeria’s 2-0 loss to Croatia: “Nigeria lost a good No.6 to get a bad No.10.”

Even while not admitting to have made a mistake, converting Mikel to a defender, Mourinho has sort of agreed with those insisting that the former Plateau United player would have been better suited playing a deeper role behind Nigeria’s forwards.

At both Mikel’s outings for Nigeria at the Under-17 World Cup in Finland and Under-20 in Holland in 2003 and 2005 respectively, he played in the playmaking roles and was touted to be the natural successor to Austin Jay Jay Okocha. The two Nigerian coaches Mikel played for, Augustine Eguavoen and Samson Siasia, had previously joined those insisting that Mikel was being played out of position at Chelsea.

Mikel was so good at his playmaking role at the Under-20 World Cup that he finished the tournament as second best player next only to then fresh-faced Barcelona teenager, Lionel Messi, who won the Best Player gong.

But 13 years down the line, while Messi has gone on to win the World Best Player title five times, Mikel, at 31 years, has been struggling to find his true role in the field.

Having played over a decade at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, Mikel, born John Michael Nnchekube Obinna, has taken his game to China’s Super League for perhaps, a round up of his football career with Tianjin Teda.

Russia 2018, which may turn out his last World Cup, has started badly for Nigeria with him leading the Eagles to their first defeat to Croatia.

Without any defining moment to cap what is supposed to be an illustrious career for this talented footballer badly stunted by Mourinho’s decision to convert him to a defensive midfielder, Mikel may just move on like several others lacking half of his quality.

If Mikel had succeeded in club career like Messi has done without any accolade at the Mundial, perhaps, Nigerians may not have been pained by Mourinho’s decision. The Portuguese gaffer may have achieved his aim at Chelsea with Mikel, it was however a de-service to Nigeria.