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John Obi Mikel: Chelsea legend’s career in 35 fascinating facts

04:37 EAT 02/10/2022
John Obi Mikel of Nigeria
As the Nigeria great calls time on his career, GOAL’s Ed Dove celebrates his career in 35 fast facts
  • Nwankwo Kanu Arsenal

    1.

    John Obi Mikel is a two-time Premier League winner, having clinched the title in both 2010 and 2015. It’s a Nigerian record, tying Arsenal great Nwankwo Kanu, who was a league champion with the Gunners in 2002 and 2004.

  • YAYA TOURE

    2.

    In fact, only three African players—Didier Drogba, Riyad Mahrez and Yaya Toure—have won more Prem titles than Mikel.

  • Finidi George Ajax Champions League

    3.

    He was also a European champion with the Blues in 2012, playing his part in their unlikely final triumph against Bayern Munich. This put him in elevated company, with only a handful of Nigerian players—Kanu and Finidi George—who have clinched club football’s grandest prize.

  • John Obi Mikel, Chelsea, Europa League

    4.

    A year later, Mikel won the Europa League. Only one other Nigerian player—Kanu—has won both of Europe’s major club competitions.

  • Obafemi Martins Inter 2003 UCL

    5.

    Mikel was also named as Africa’s Most Promising Player by Caf in 2005, becoming the second Nigerian—after Obafemi Martins—to win the award. Mikel’s triumph was the third success out of four consecutive wins in the category for Nigerian players, following behind Martins’ back-to-back wins, and preceding Taye Taiwo’s win in 2006.

  • Salomon Kalou Elfenbeinküste

    6.

    To date, Mikel is one of only four players—along with Mido, Clifford Mulenga and Salomon Kalou—to have won the Caf Most Promising Talent of the Year award and to have clinched the Africa Cup of Nations title.

  • Victor Obinna of Lokomotiv Moscow

    7.

    As a youth player, Mikel represented Plateau United in his homeland. It’s the same alma mater as the likes of Celestine Babayaro—who would also go on to play for Chelsea—and Victor Obinna.

  • 8.

    Having been selected for the Pepsi Football Academy, he once trialled at South African side Ajax Cape Town before ultimately moving to Norwegians Lyn, ultimately never returning to test himself in the PSL.

  • John Obi Mikel Chelsea Man Utd

    9.

    Another sliding doors moment came when Mikel signed for Manchester United, only to claim that he’d been forced to sign the deal and instead pushed through a move to Chelsea.

  • John Obi Mikel of Chelsea

    10.

    Mikel was actually born with the name Michael, but a clerical error early in his career established ‘Mikel’ as his given name. He liked the sound, and chose to keep the new spelling, even though it wasn’t his official given name.

  • John Obi Mikel - Chelsea 22072015

    11.

    Mikel’s first and only league goal for Chelsea came against local rivals Fulham in September 2013.
  • 12.

    In fact, no Chelsea outfield player took longer to score their opening league goal for the Blues than Mikel, who had to wait 185 matches for his first PL strike for the club.

  • 13.

    This is also a (somewhat unwanted) Premier League record, with no outfield player in the top flight since its inauguration having waited longer than the Nigerian’s 185 appearances before netting their first league goal.

  • obi mikel trabzonspor 08022020

    14.

    Mikel scored three times as many league goals during his 31 Turkish Super Lig outings with Trabzonspor as he did in his 249 Premier League appearances with Chelsea!

  • John Obi Mikel of Chelsea

    15.

    The midfielder departed Stamford Bridge having contributed 11 assists in the Premier League, working out at approximately one assist every 22.6 matches.

  • John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien

    16.

    When he did find the net for the Blues in September 2013, he became the ninth African player to net in the top flight for the club. The Nigerian was following in the footsteps of the likes of Didier Drogba, Babayaro and Michael Essien.

  • 17.

    He then had to wait a remarkable five years and 226 days before netting his second in English league football, finally getting back on the scoresheet in his 267th appearance—for Middlesbrough against Rotherham United in May 2019.

  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic David Beckham PSG 2013

    18.

    Mikel did enjoy greater scoring success in the Champions League—netting a goal each in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons—against Sporting Lisbon and Paris Saint-Germain. He equalised in the second match after having earlier deflected Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s free kick into his own goal.

  • John Obi Mikel

    19.

    He also found the net in the FA Cup (three times) more often than in the Premier League.

  • Mason Mount 2022-23

    20.

    Mikel is the only foreign player to have made their 100th Premier League appearance for the Blues before the age of 23 years and 100 days. The other players to have done so are English trio Mason Mount, John Terry and Eddie Newton.

  • Reece James 2022-23

    21.

    In December 2021, Reece James became the youngster player to start 50 league games for the club since Mikel achieved the feat at the age of 21 years and 264 days in January 2009. The Nigerian is himself eclipsed by Terry, who hit a half-century in April 2002 at the age of 21 years and 124 days.

  • Guus Hiddink, Netherlands

    22.

    In 2015, Mikel became the 21stChelsea player to make 350 appearances for the club. He achieved this feat when he came on as a substitute in Guus Hiddink’s first match in charge during his second spell with the club.

  • John Obi Mikel Chelsea Drogba

    23.

    He ended his time at Chelsea with 249 top flight appearances for the Stamford Bridge giants, 27th in the club’s all-time standings. This is more than the likes of Eden Hazard, Willian and Ashley Cole, although he’s behind Didier Drogba, who made 254 league outings for the club.

  • Alex Iwobi

    24.

    Only three Nigerian players—Shola Ameobi, Kanu and Yakubu—registered more Prem outings than Mikel. The highest active PL player on the list—Alex Iwobi—will only be able to overtake the midfielder (at the earliest) at the end of next season.

  • FCB AllStars v ManUtd Legends - Friendly Match Paul Scholes 08092014

    25.

    Against Stoke City in February 2011, Mikel registered 108 passes—more than any other player in that Prem season up to that point. The Super Eagle ended that campaign With a pass-success rate of 89.5 percent—behind only Paul Scholes, Johan Djourou and Nigel de Jong. Only one player—Michael Essien—averaged more passes per match than Mikel (64.4) during the course of that outstanding league campaign.

  • John Obi Mikel Chelsea Champions League

    26.

    Mikel wrapped up his career in Kuwait, playing two matches for Kuwait SC before parting ways with the club. In total, he turned out for seven senior clubs during his career, including stints in Norway, China and Turkey.

  • John Obi Mikel Nigeria.

    27.

    Mikel was an Africa Cup of Nations champion under Stephen Keshi in 2013, as Nigeria defeated Burkina Faso in the final. The midfielder was a key pillar in the country’s third Afcon-winning team, following in the footsteps of the legendary generations of 1980 and 1994.

  • John Obi Mikel

    28.

    During Nigeria’s successful Afcon campaign in South Africa, Mikel completed 247 passes—more than any other player in the tournament.

  • Omeruo, Salah

    29.

    Of the Super Eagles team that started the final against Burkina Faso, winning 1-0, only two players—Ogenyi Onazi and Kenneth Omeruo—are still active players and employed by clubs. The likes of Vincent Enyeama, Ikechukwu Uche and Elderson Echiejile have all preceded Mikel in hanging up their boots.

  • Vincent Enyeama

    30.

    Mikel was named in the Caf Team of the Tournament for his performances in the Rainbow Nation, and was joined in the Afcon Dream Team by his fellow champions Enyeama, Efe Ambrose, Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike.

  • 31.

    Mike’s performance at the 2013 Nations Cup was his fourth appearance at the tournament, having first featured for the Eagles during their run to the semi-finals in 2006.

  • En Japón 1993 el goleador indiscutido fue el nigeriano Wilson Oruma, con seis goles.

    32.

    He actually made his international debut during that tournament, coming off the bench to replace Wilson Oruma as the Eagles defeated Zimbabwe 2-0 in Port Said.

  • John Obi Mikel Nigeria

    33.

    The midfielder’s final Nigeria outing was also at the Nations Cup, coming in a shock defeat by Madagascar during the 2019 competition. Injury in that match denied him the chance to participate in the Eagles’ run to the semis.

  • 34.

    He’d return to the Afcon once more, but only during the Eagles’ 2019 campaign—six years after the glories of 2013—as the West African giants again reached the final four.

  • 35.

    Mikel also appeared at the World Cups of 2014—as Nigeria reached the Last 16—and 2018, when they were eliminated in the group stage. He was made to wait to take his bow on the grandest stage of all, having missed out on the 2010 tournament in South Africa due to injury.