Jose Mourinho has disclosed the reasoning behind his decision to transform Mikel Obi from an attacking midfielder to a defensive midfielder during his time at Chelsea.
Mourinho, impressed by Mikel’s standout performance for Nigeria’s Flying Eagles in the 2005 FIFA U17 World Cup, secured the midfielder’s signing for Chelsea.
The young Nigerian’s exceptional display, lead his team to the final and earning him the second-best player title in
the tournament (just behind Leo Messi), prompted Mourinho to envision him as the natural successor to Claude Makelele.
Mourinho, now in charge of the Serie A side, AS Roma, revealed the reason behind his action.
“He can be number 10 with Nigeria, but not with me,” Mourinho said. “But I liked everything about Mikel.”
“If you go through all the positional [defensive] midfield players that I have had during my career, there are lots of similar things,” Mourinho said on the ObiOne Podcast.
“Aside from Claude Makelele who was small, I had them all tall and physically strong. They also knew how to occupy space and they have what I call ‘the simplicity of football’, which is fundamental in that position.
“The team needs balance, with or without the ball. A defensive midfielder needs to be humble in the sense that they recognize that the team is more important than themselves.
“With me at Chelsea, Mikel was a fantastic positional midfield player, very quick thinking, one touch, two touches, everything was simple, and the game was flowing.”
The Portuguese however believes the decision was the best for Mikel as the former Nigerian Captain went on to make 249 league appearances for Chelsea, winning the Premier League title twice.
Mikel Obi also won four FA Cup titles as well as the UEFA Champions League, and Europa League.
“He’s what I mean by simplicity is genius. So it was good for Chelsea and importantly Mikel, because he was there for than ten years, he won everything and more money. He was still number for Nigeria,” He concluded.
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