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'Amazing' teenage John Obi Mikel was already too good for the PSL - Nathan Paulse

7:38 PM IST 29/09/22
John Obi Mikel Nigeria.
Then then teenage Mikel was already a top professional by the time he trained with Ajax Cape Town ahead of his move to Europe
  • Mikel trained with Ajax Cape Town in 2003
  • Paulse believes PSL would not have suited him
  • Mikel’s attributes stood out for Paulse

WHAT HAPPENED? At 16, Mikel trained with the South African club while he was on transit to Europe. While at the training, Ajax Cape Town coach Gordon Igesund – a PSL title winner with Manning Rangers, Orlando Pirates, and Santos – noticed the Nigerian’s ability and approached the club’s boss, John Comitis, about the possibility of signing the young midfielder. The move did not happen as Mikel had already attracted interest from big European clubs and his agent, John Shittu, made it clear that the preferred destination was Europe.

WHAT HAS BEEN SAID: "We could not believe he was 16 at that time," Nathan Paulse, Ajax Cape Town’s record top scorer with 56 goals, told FARPost.

"He was that good. He had authority, he had presence, and he was extremely good on the ball. We looked at each other during his first two days and wondered if he was 16.

"From a playing point of view, he was amazing. I don’t think playing in the PSL would have done him any good. His ability was just too good at that age.

"He stood out immediately; he was extremely calm on the ball. He could run with the ball like a top professional. I don’t think the PSL would have suited him in terms of the level."

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Mikel signed for Norwegian club Lyn 1896 FC but, after two years and just six appearances he was the subject of a tug of war between Chelsea and Manchester United. He famously signed for the Red Devils before backtracking and ending up at Chelsea.

His move to Chelsea, where he plied his trade from 2006 to 2017, paid off big. He won four FA Cups, two Premier League titles, the League Cup, Europa League, and the Champions League.

He featured 372 times for Chelsea in his 11-year, trophy-laden stay and is fondly remembered by fans, especially his outstanding performance in the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich as the Blues became European champions for the first time.

WHAT NEXT FOR MIKEL: At just 35-years-old, Mikel has many years of working life ahead of him. He stated in his retirement post on Instagram that this was "not a goodbye" and he hoped his fans would continue to "walk with me" as he explores the next chapter in his life. Those who watched him play will hope to see Mikel stay involved in football despite hanging up his illustrious boots.