Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel has opened up on his early days at London Club, Chelsea even as he confessed that he was intimidated with the roll call of stars, like John Terry on ground when he newly joined the Blues.
Now closing in on his tenth year with the Blues, Mikel who arrived at Chelsea as a 19-year old told the club’s official magazine that he was literally shaking when he saw the big guns he will be lining out with in the days ahead.
“I came into the dressing room that day literally shaking,’ Mikel recalls. ‘I saw the players that were in there – the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Claude Makelele, Geremi, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack, Andriy Shevchenko – it was crazy. And I was just 19
Mikel added: “I was shaking the whole day because I couldn’t talk to any of them. I didn’t know what to say to guys like that. They were really nice guys, but it was scary. It can be tough coming into a dressing room like that as a younger player. You had to earn the right to be among them”
Mikel indeed has earned the right to play in the ever star-studded Chelsea team having raked in close to 300 appearances under different mangers including Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez, Roberto Di Matteo among others.
Previously staring for Lyn, Oslo, Mikel’s transfer to Chelsea had its fair share of controversies as rival club Manchester United had initially cornered Mikel allegedly without the knowledge of his agent.
FIFA and the law courts in Norway were all involved before a £16 million transfer fee was finally paid for Mikel in June 2006 by Chelsea months after he had an excellent tournament with Nigeria at the FIFA U-20 World Cup where he won the Silver Ball after being voted the tournament’s second-best player behind Argentine, Lionel Messi.
Over the years, Mikel has played his way to the top; winning a good number of silverware with the Blues including the Champions League and Super Cup.
This season Mikel has played a key role in the Blues’ improved form in the New Year. Guus Hiddink has spoken about the Nigerian midfielder in glowing terms and Mikel is pleased with his role in the team.
‘I love doing my defensive duties, but at the same time I love having the ball and always trying to be available so we can play out from the back,’ he said.
‘This is something we’ve talked about, something the manager has stressed – trying to play out from the back so we can always be in control of the game. I think doing this we have much more possession of the ball.
‘I like having the ball and making the team play. When I was young, my natural position wasn’t as a defensive midfielder so maybe that gives me a bit of an edge.’