Whenever an elite or formally elite player goes a step down his cadre in football to play in a lower league, it is usually expected that such player brings some, if not all of his A-game along but only a few live up to that expectation.
During the winter transfer window, English Football League Championship side Middlesbrough were looking to fortify their squad, considering their chances of getting promoted to the Premiership – if not finishing in the top two, at least a playoff opportunity could be fought for.
Mikel Obi found himself between the devil and the deep blue sea when his stint in the Chinese Super League came to an end after he ended his contract with Tianjin TEDA. He had been battling with injuries despite being a critical member of the Chinese club, struggled to make appearances for his country Nigeria and was probably at the end of his wits knowing him to be a player after Nigerian fans’ hearts.
ikel wanted a move back to the continent he won 11 major trophies and it was unlikely for him to get a top club. The Boro wanted fortification, Mikel was hungry for football played in Europe.
In what was unprecedented, since no one saw it coming, Middlesbrough Football Club of North Yorkshire, England signed the 31-year-old Nigerian international and has so far made only four appearances for the club, and the fans have gone wild.
Sunday’s match against Blackburn Rovers finally put Mikel’s name on the lips of Boro fans to the extent that some have said he is better than five-time Ballon d’Or Winner Lionel Messi and have called him the ‘African Zidane’.
The club’s official twitter handle went further to tag him ‘A Rolls-Royce of a midfielder’. The fans showed their admiration for the former Chelsea player by composing a song that goes;
We’ve got Mikel!
John Obi Mikel!
I just don’t think you understand
The midfield man
The African Zidane
We’ve got John Obi Mikel!
Although Mikel might not be at the level he wants to be, but there is no doubt he is having an amazing time in The Boro. In the away game at the Riverside Stadium on Sunday, Mikel made 63 touches, attempted 52 passes and completed 47 of them passes, gave 1 key pass and won 2 dribbles.
The win puts Middlesbrough in fifth place with 54 points from 32 games and they will be looking to bank on Mikel’s commandeering of the midfield to achieve their season objectives.
The Super Eagles captain will look to return to full form, since playing for the national team at last year’s World Cup, in time for the 2019 African Cup of Nation scheduled for the summer in Egypt.