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Former Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi started his career as a promising attacking midfielder and finished as the Golden Ball runner-up to Lionel Messi at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Messi only just edged Mikel in that competition, and many expected Mikel to go and do big things in the attacking midfield position.
Mikel would however be deployed as a deep-lying playmaker by Jose Mourinho and his career took that path until now.
In an interview with the Athletic, Mikel maintained that Mourinho didn’t kill his career by changing his position.
“I don’t agree with them,” Mikel replies those who believe he will have had a greater career as a No.10.
“They were probably upset because they saw me as a creator of the Nigeria team,” he told The Athletic.
“Obviously Mourinho was the one who changed things but I wouldn’t say he ruined my career or whatever! I still played as a No 10 for the national side. Mourinho is a manager I will always look up to,” Mikel revealed.
Mikel also revealed how he learnt from the legendary Claude Makelele before he made the position his own for many years.
“I did quickly grow to understand that. I spoke to Makelele during my first season. He knew I was going to one day take over the (defensive midfield) role from him. He told me, ‘Listen, you’re not going to get accolades playing in this position. You just have to do the dirty work, make sure the team wins and then all the glory goes to the strikers! Always.
“When I first came to the club. I thought I was still going to play my role as a No. 10 or maybe a No. 8. I wasn’t really looking at Makelele, it wasn’t my position. But after Mourinho told me what he wanted, that’s how the chats with Claude started and he took me under his wing. He showed me how to master that position.”
Mikel ended up playing under 8 different managers and played a key role under all, bar Andre Villas-Boas, as he ended up winning two Premier League titles, one UEFA Champions League; one Europa League, four FA Cups, and two League Cups.