MIKEL: ‘I CAN BE EAGLES PLAYMAKER’
Posted: Jun 30, 2012
Chelsea Star Accepts Attacking Role
By Sulaiman Alao
The solution to the Super Eagles’ lack of creativity in the midfield which has seen the national team struggle to dominate opposition and which to a large extent has also made goalscoring problematic in recent times, is set to be a thing of the past with the 2012 UEFA Champions League winner, John Mikel Obi declaring his readiness to anchor the team’s engine room.
Speaking in an exclusive chat with Complete Sports Saturday, the talented Chelsea star said playing as a holding midfielder for his England based club does not mean he isn’t capable of playing in an attacking role for the national team whenever he is recalled to the national team.
Mikel said that at Chelsea, the coaches he has worked with chose to exploit his versatility to help the club’s overall ambitions. He believes people should see it as a sacrifice on his part rather than take it to mean he has lost the attacking flair he was known for while playing youth football.
“I’m aware of the concerns by Nigerians that I might have lost my creative and attacking instinct since I’ve been playing in the holding midfield position for Chelsea,” begins Mikel who recently launched a foundation to assist the less privileged.
“But people shouldn’t forget that I started out as an attacking midfielder from my youth days even in the national teams. At Chelsea, I’m given a responsibility to play a certain role. It does limit my joining the attack but as a professional, I try to play to the coach’s instructions for the overall benefit of the team.
“With certain players always overlapping, I am the one who keeps the balance of the team. It is a sacrifice I have to make with Chelsea, not going forward and getting the goals. That doesn’t mean I have lost my creative qualities because that is innate,” said Obi, who was a delight to watch in Chelsea midfield against Barcelona and then Bayern Munich during the Champions League semi and final matches.
Asked specifically the role he would prefer to play in the Eagles if he has his way, Mikel minced no words in declaring that he would rather play as the team’s attacking midfielder although the final decision rests with the coach.
“For the national team, I believe I can play the attacking role in the midfield. I’ve done it severally and it’s not a big deal to me personally.
“But of course, if the coach (Keshi) wants me to play in any other role, I’ll still be ready to give my best to help the team’s cause. The most important thing is for team to qualify for the Nations and World Cups,” said Mikel who was rated as the second most valuable player at the 2005 World Youth Championships in Holland after Argentine whizkid, Lionel Messi.
Having played eight matches since taking charge of the team late last year,Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi is not yet satisfied with the team’s creativity in the midfield, which he considers to be the team’s weakest department. The Big Boss is still on the look out for a playmaker who can effectively plug the loophole.
Since the exit of former Eagles skipper Austin Okocha who anchored the team’s creative role, it has been difficult finding a capable replacement for the coveted number 10 shirt. Mikel’s performances for the Eagles have come under criticisms from several quarters, with suggestions that the player would be best deployed to play as a holding midfielder just like he does for Chelsea.
But with Mikel’s recent declaration however, it remains to be seen where Keshi would have the Chelsea star play in his team when he eventually recalls the midfielder to the Eagles fold.
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