Mikel Returns to England, Joins Stoke City in One Year Deal

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Femi Solaja

After months of speculations, former Super Eagles Captain, John Obi Mikel, has teamed up with English Championship side, Stoke City.

The significance of yesterday’s chapter in his career is that it marks exactly 15 years after his first match for the national team on August 17th, 2005 when Nigeria played a friendly against Libya in Tripoli.

Interestingly, the same day marked the end of the career of former Super Eagles strongman in the defence line, Taribo West as Obinna Nwaneri replaced him.

Mikel also came on for Christian Obodo in final preparatory match for away World Cup qualifying game against Algeria in Oran.

But yesterday, Mikel who captained the Super Eagles at the last AFCON 2019 finals in Egypt, made a formal comeback into active club football when he signed for Stoke as a free agent since leaving Turkish side, Trabzonspor on mutual agreement in March this year.

The former Chelsea midfielder made 249 Premier League appearances in an 11-year spell which ended when he left Stamford Bridge in 2017.

He won the Champions League and Europa League, two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the English League Cup during his time with the London-based club.

After Chelsea, Mikel joined Chinese side Tianjin TEDA and also had a brief spell at Middlesbrough in 2019.

Stoke boss Michael O’Neill said: “I was really impressed with him when we met for the first time and he outlined what he wants from the next phase of his career.

“We spent four hours talking and he made it clear he wants to get back into the Premier League and finish his career there and hopefully he can do that with Stoke City.”

Mikel won 89 caps for Nigeria, playing in two World Cups and helping the Super Eagles win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, before announcing his retirement from international football last summer.

Championship side Stoke won three of their last four games in 2019-20 to pull away from relegation trouble and finished 15th under former Northern Ireland boss O’Neill.

Mikel 91 appearances for the Nigerian national team before signing off last year July.

He is the most decorated Nigerian footballer and one of few players in the world to have featured in all levels of FIFA’s 11-a-side tournaments namely FIFA-World Cup, Olympics tournament, Confederation Cup, Club World Cup, U-17 and U-20 World Cups.