When Super Eagles captain, John Obi Mikel opted for a move from China to England, not many gave him a chance to blossom.
This is especially when he settled for Championship side, Middlesbrough.
Few weeks down the line, however, the narrative has changed a great deal and Mikel is getting all the accolades.
Boro wasn’t the only club keen on Mikel in January.
In fact, Tony Pulis said the Nigerian had loads of options, with clubs reportedly interested in the Premier League and in the top European leagues.
It is safe to say if any of those clubs have been keeping an eye on Mikel’s performances for Boro so far, they would likely have a sense of regret that they didn’t do more to try and snap him up.
Just as he has been putting up commanding displays since his arrival, Mikel literally just strolled through against Blackburn, hardly breaking a sweat, hardly giving the ball away and not giving Bradley Dack a sniff.
As recorded by football statistics website, whoscored.com, Mikel who played in a deep-lying role racked up two dribbles, made one tackle, struck one shot and had a pass success rate of ninety per cent.
In all, Mikel made 63 touches, he had 52 passes attempted and 47 passes completed.
The official website of Middlesbrough even described Mikel as the ‘Rolls Royce midfielder’ while the fans who have since composed an anthem for the 31-year old, likened Mikel to the African Zidane.
“”We’ve got Mikel,
John Obi Mikel,
I just don’t think you understand.
The midfield man, the African Zidane,
Oh we’ve got John Obi Mikel” #UTB
God I love this guy” are the lyrics of the new Mikel anthem, composed by Boro fans.
John Obi Mikel is the best player in the championship, and I will argue all night long with anyone who disagrees, blokes different class
— Jamie Lake-Varley (@Lakey_17) February 17, 2019
Mikel was like KEKE NAPEP to Chelsea. Now, he is like a Rolls-Royce to Boro.
— Akinpelumi Akinboye (@theakinakinboye) February 18, 2019
Mikel’s new found form will be gladdening to many, especially the Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr who had before now, shown reservation with the inactivity of his skipper.
Mikel has not played for the Super Eagles since Nigeria’s unceremonious exit at the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Injuries and club engagement had made Mikel unavailable for games with the national team but it is yet to be seen if he would be making a return for the dead rubber AFCON qualifying match against Seychelles as well as the high-profile friendly against Egypt all billed for next month in Asaba, Delta state.
Middlesbrough are presently fifth on the log in the Championship and with a good chance of getting a promotion to the Premier League at the end of the season.