Although John Obi Mikel's made over 180 appearances for Chelsea in seven years at the club, he's actually never really been linked with a move away. That might be about to change.
Mikel Obi & Galatasaray: A reliable source close to Nigeria midfielder Mikel says talks are ongoing & Turkish side will approach Chelsea.— Oluwashina Okeleji (@oluwashina) June 7, 2013
Tancredi Palmer's also picked up on this rumour and suggested it's Galatasaray who are in the running, which has given it that bit of extra traction to really send Twitter's army of Nigerians into a state of frenzied panic. I'm not quite sure other fans might be feeling so devastated by this news - Mikel's always been a very divisive figure, for some valid reasons and some very odd ones, like those that suggest he's not good because he doesn't score goals.
That's a ridiculous argument - Mikel's job at Chelsea has primarily been to protect the back four, something he's done very well under Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo (the latter coaxing out one of his best ever performances in the Champions League final). Curiously, Mikel's a bit divisive with Chelsea managers too - Andre Villas-Boas and Rafael Benitez weren't huge fans, with the latter going as far as giving Mikel the Florent Malouda treatment towards the end of the season.
It's kind of funny that those two are also the ones that deserve most criticism for their tenureship at Chelsea, and their distrust of Mikel isn't an isolated factor. He brings a calmness to Chelsea's midfield play, combining his impressive physicality with clever tactical nous to break things up in the centre of the park. Originally brought in by Mourinho as an attacking midfielder, he was converted into a holding player by the Portuguese - and there's a slight irony there if Mourinho's now the one to oversee his departure.
Would I be upset if Mikel moved onto Turkey (of all places!)? I don't know - there are plenty of options out there who can feasibly replace Mikel, even if they wouldn't necessarily be as consistent as the Nigerian. If Chelsea do sell him, the pressing need will be to replace him - it's already a position of need and his departure would only accentuate the problems in that zone. Those who criticise his passing often use ludicrous examples to try and validate their point, but it'd be a lie if you pretended that there aren't players out there who have a better control of tempo, something Chelsea lack.
When I went and saw Chelsea play earlier in the year, Mikel was one of the players who really stood out for me. He was just unbelievably calm when he was on the ball, and his awareness of space and use of his body positioning was just so clever. Seeing it in the flesh made me realise how difficult it can be to jockey a player, to cushion the ball so you don't give it away cheaply - things Mikel does with understated efficiency.
Financially speaking, Mikel isn't one of our highest earners, so removing his wages from the books wouldn't've have a hugely significant impact on FFP. He would, however, command a sizeable fee - something in the £15-25 million ballpark seems reasonable. We'll have to wait and see if there's anymore substance to this rumour, but for now it's something to keep our eye on and in the meantime, consider the possibilities of a potential Mikel exit.