In his 10 years at Chelsea, Mikel rightly divided opinions, but his achievements for the club have to be hailed and will forever be remembered. Chelsea became a global club and won major titles that had not been won before he came in from Norway as a gangling ball-playing midfielder.
Chelsea’s official site said, “His finest moment came in 2012 in Munich when his incredible discipline in midfield protected the defence and helped us to claim our first Champions League triumph.”
And these four words, ‘incredible discipline in midfield’, best describe Mikel’s contribution to Chelsea over his 10-year stewardship. When he joined, he was a ball-playing midfielder, whom Jose Mourinho reformed to become the next Claude Makelele, who was just a ball retriever.
Many have argued that Mikel would have become a better player and better appreciated if Mourinho had allowed him to exhibit and develop what he was naturally gifted with or that he would have become a better player under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. But neither of that can be proven.
In 372 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions, he scored just six goals, which showed the distance he must have kept to the opposing goal – but that was the job he was contracted to do. It could, however, be argued that he really did not enjoy this role because whenever he came to play for the Super Eagles, he always angled for a more offensive position.
With two English Premier League titles, one Champions League, one Europa League, four FA Cups and two League Cups, Mikel was a success in West London.
He has also been a success at the national team, helping the Super Eagles to an African Nations Cup triumph and winning a bronze medal with the Olympic team.
On arrival in China, Mikel said, “I’m delighted to be joining Tianjin TEDA FC in China, at a time that the Chinese Super League is really taking off, and I look forward to helping Tianjin TEDA FC continue to grow both on and off the pitch in the next few years.”
He could finally get a more offensive playing position in Tianjin TEDA, but would also give ‘incredible discipline in midfield’ and leadership in the team.
For Mikel, it is goodbye London, welcome China.