John Obi Mikel enjoys his freedom with Nigeria

Jasper Juinen

The holding midfielder enjoys his more attack minded role with the national team, and talked about it yesterday

Chelsea's John Obi Mikel was one of the most impressive players during the group stage of the Confederations Cup, even scoring a goal that leveled the score against Uruguay. To prove I'm not just making that up, here's the goal:


Impressive, isn't it? So why doesn't Mikel do that more often with Chelsea? I suppose we could speculate on it, but I'd rather just hear what Mikel had to say:

"I always try to do what my coaches tell me. At Chelsea, I have to play for the team and be more defensive. But in Nigeria, the coach allows me to express myself and I enjoy myself. Now, I have to find a balance between the two because it is important for my future."

"I was very happy to score the goal. When Ideye passed the ball to me, I knew I just needed to beat the defender, and as soon as I did that, I just needed to be calm and put the ball where I wanted it."

"It felt great to score a goal after so long. Now maybe I can score more"

So Mikel wants to go forward more, eh? We always hear about how Chelsea 'ruined' Mikel by playing him in a holding role when he first joined the club, with little to no mention of the fact that he'd likely have never seen minutes in a loaded Chelsea midfield playing any other role. Oddly though, Mikel has been a key part of a lot of winning teams both at Chelsea and for Nigeria since Jose Mourinho moved him deeper, and his no-nonsense game has been a large reason why.

Whether allowing Mikel a little more freedom to roam will help Chelsea on the pitch is another matter entirely. He's clearly one of the most talented players on the Nigeria squad, but just about anyone on the Chelsea roster would be able to say that. Where Mikel is probably needed in a more assertive role for his country, the Blues have plenty of very talented players capable of supporting the attack as well. Having the ability to do something in addition to your usual role is all well and good, and his performance in Brazil will be worth keeping in the back of our heads as we approach the start of the new season.

All of that said, I doubt there is a single person on the planet I'd trust to decide how to utilize Mikel more than Jose Mourinho. I doubt anyone looked at the young Nigerian midfielder when he first arrived in England and thought he could handle anchoring the midfield on both Premier League and European Champions, yet he's done so fairly effectively since he arrived. He's actually done such a fine job with the role that none of the many Chelsea managers since has decided to alter it much, instead trusting Mikel to continue in the same role he's played for his entire Chelsea career.

Mourinho would certainly be a guy willing to shake things up a bit, and his track record of success would make it very hard to question him if he did. It's quite possible he'll look to install a system that allows Mikel a bit more freedom to roam, as he's certainly used systems without a dedicated holder fairly regularly at both Real Madrid and Inter Milan. Given the attacking personnel we have at our disposal, I'd have to think it's unlikely.

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