It is with a concerned heart that I write this open letter to you. Like most Nigerians, if not all, I mourn not only because the Super Eagles failed, in the third time of asking, to progress beyond the 2nd round hurdle at the FIFA 2014 World Cup, but also because the team put up an unconvincing performance which culminated in a comprehensive 2-nil defeat to Le Blues.
When the jury was out on the Eagles disastrous campaign, the first name that easily came to mind for execution was Mikel. The reason is not far-fetched: a player of your stature, possessing the essentials to influence matches, and who plays for no less a club than Chelsea should definitely lead the Super Eagles beyond the previously attained round of 16.
There is no gainsaying the obvious that currently you are the most vilified player of the ill-fated Super Eagles. From rib-cracking caricatures to stinging personalisations, you are being depicted in such a way that would make Sanni Keita and Yakubu Aiyegbeni turn overnight living legends of the round leather game.
For once, I am compelled to agree with the army of disappointed fans.
I have followed your career with keen interest, beginning from when I first watched you in action during the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in Netherland. Boy, how you exhibited flair, vision and confidence that belied your age! You held the world spell bound with your passing range, composure and coordination in midfield, providing the impetus for the attack to flourish. Though the Flying Eagles gallantly lost in the final to Argentina in a pulsating 1:2 scoreline, you left no one in doubt that of your potentials and greatness. And when you mounted the podium as recipient of the Silver Ball, alongside the precocious Lionel Messi, who won the Golden Ball, the world rose on its feet to applaud a star not just in the making, but for the taking. I recall hearing Nigerians mused that the Super Eagles have got a successor to, if not an upgrade of the mercurial Jay Jay Okocha.
That you had two giants of the English Premier League battling for your signature was indicative that the footballing world has taken notice of your talent, and the unquantifiable potentials inside of you, bursting for expression at the grandest of global football stage. You finally settled for Chelsea, the rest they say is history.
At the national level, your reputation as the real deal was further boosted by the returns you posted in your AFCON debut in Egypt 2006 against Zimbabwe: 1 assist, 1 goal. It could not have gone any better.
A career that really kick-started eight years ago with 10 major trophies, including Premier League title, Champions League crown, and African Cup of Nations, is really one to be reckoned with. However, these club/national team honours could be flattering and deceptive. This same period has also seen a gradual retrogression in your game in terms of growth/progression towards attaining peak, influence on matches through direct & indirect assists and goals, and personal recognition.
It would not be helpful to roll out the stats table, likewise to compare you to your peer, Messi, who has gone on to break numerous records, collected individual prizes and club trophies, and even took the Albiceleste to the final of the FIFA WC. But one undeniable reality has been the wide margin of difference ever since the two of you broke into world’s stage at the same time. Many would argue that a lot of factors are responsible for this chasm, the constant however remains that Messi perhaps is more fired to improve and succeed.
The alarm has started ringing. Last season saw you in a more limited role for Chelsea, especially in the Premier League. This incoming season, could see you down below the pecking order with the emergence/arrival of Matic and Fabregas.
Football, as you know, has evolved to the point where deep lying midfielders aside executing to perfection their defensive responsibilities must also provide impetus to the attackers. Jose Mourinho, who coincidentally altered your game to suit his defensive style, shares this view.
Now is the time to rise up to the occasion; now is the time to live up your real potentials. Go Mikel, it’s in you!
Article by : Epic Pen