Chelsea Legend Mikel John Obi (yes, in that order ... maybe), once known as Manchester United signing John Obi Mikel but who, like fellow legend Willian nearly a decade later, would see the light and end up at Stamford Bridge instead (though unlike Willian, not without considerable controversy and courtroom wrangling), has announced his retirement today.
The 35-year-old had been without a team for the past 16 months, since leaving Birmingham City at the end of the 2020-21 season. He had left Chelsea halfway through the 2016-17 season, with 372 appearances to his name over the preceding decade, still good for 18th all-time today. He’d won everything there is to win, some more than once, with only the FIFA World Club Cup eluding him (and the rest of his teammates).
“What do they say [about the Europa League]? Thursday nights, Channel 5? Hopefully, next season we are not going to be in it and we are going to be prime time.”
-Mikel; April 2013
Never the flashiest and often decidedly unflashy, Mikel was a flashy attacking midfielder at the start of his career, out Messi-ing even Lionel Messi himself at age 17. José Mourinho then of course turned him into a player some affectionately called “The Human Final Whistle”, known best for shutting down the opposition and being nearly impossible to take the ball from when he had possession.
Mikel had often divided opinion during his career, but his constant presence in the team for a decade, even with the likes of Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack, Michael Essien, Claude Makélélé, and others also vying for minutes, speaks for itself. Mikel is part of a most excellent legacy of (defensive) midfielders at the Bridge, from Maka to Mikel to Matić to N’Golo Kanté to ... [open position please apply here].
Meanwhile, Mikel also proudly and successfully (and often as captain) represented his country on the international stage, finishing with the fourth most caps all-time for Nigeria. They reached the semifinals of the Africa Cup of Nations four times during his tenure (winning it all once, in 2013) and won the Bronze Medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Mikel has a proud place reserved for him in the pantheon of 21st century Chelsea heroes, and we thank him for all those great years in the Blue shirt.
Good luck with whatever comes next, Legend!
“There is a saying that ‘all good things must come to an end’, and for my professional football career, that day is today.
“I look back at the past 20 years of my career, and I must say that I am very satisfied with all that I was able to achieve and more importantly the human it has helped shape.
“All of this would not have been possible without the unwavering support of my family, managers, clubs, coaches, teammates and most importantly my ever-loyal fans. You supported me through my highs and lows, even on days that I did not live up to your expectations. I say a big thank you.
“I will also like to encourage everyone who I may have inspired one way or the other in the course of my career to never give up on their dreams, for every time you think about quitting, remind yourself why you started.
“This is not goodbye, it’s the start of another journey, another chapter of my life. I look forward to what the future holds and I hope you will walk with me. Thank you.”
-Mikel John Obi; source: Instagram