Tributes poured in quickly on Tuesday as former Super Eagles and Chelsea midfielder, Mikel Obi, announced his retirement from professional football after a career that lasted two decades and brought him a total of 15 medals.
Mikel, through his official social media account, announced he had retired from professional football, bringing an end to a glittering 20-year career, in which he won a total of 15 medals for both clubs and country.
Mikel won two Premier League, three FA Cup, one League Cup, one Community Shield, one UEFA Champions League and one UEFA Europa League with Chelsea. He also won one Turkish Cup with Trabzonspor.
With Nigeria, he won the African Cup of Nations in 2013 and finished third on three occasions in 2006, 2010 and 2019. He also led the Nigerian team to the bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
In a stellar career that began at hometown club Plateau United in Jos in 2002, Mikel grew to become a popular figure at Chelsea, and was a crucial part of the all-conquering Chelsea side that dominated Europe in 2012.
However, having been without a club for over 10 months, the veteran 35-year-old decided to hang his boots.
“There is a saying that ’all good things must come to an end’ and for my professional football career, that day is today,” Mikel announced on his official Instagram page.
“I look back at the past 20 years of my career, and I must say that I am very satisfied with all that I was able to achieve and more importantly the human it has helped shape.
“All of this would not have been possible without the unwavering support of my family, managers, clubs, coaches, teammates and most importantly my ever-loyal fans. You supported me through my highs and lows, even on days that I did not live up to your expectations. I say a big thank you.
“I will also like to encourage everyone who I may have inspired one way or the other in the course of my career to never give up on their dreams, for every time you think about quitting, remind yourself why you started.
“This is not goodbye; it’s the start of another journey, another chapter of my life. I look forward to what the future holds and I hope you will walk with me. Thank you.”
Reacting to the club legend’s announcement, Chelsea wrote, “Enjoy your retirement, @Mikel_John_Obi! Thanks for the memories.”
Former Eagles head coach Austin Eguavoen added, “Congratulations on your retirement, John Mikel Obi. An honour coaching you at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2003, AFCON 2006 and AFCON 2008. You played it all and won it all. Enjoy the good life.”
Several other footballers also took to social media to congratulate Mikel on his retirement.
Striker, Odion Ighalo, said, “Congrats skippo and good luck.”
“Ahhh skippo I miss you sha. LEGEND,” Ogenyi Onazi wrote.
Retired Ivory Coast forward and former teammate at Chelsea, Salomon Kalou, relishes the memory of playing alongside the Nigerian.
He wrote, “OGaaaaaaaaaaaa. I dey miss u Baba Thank u for that wonderful journey. I fancy well well that 1st foto Obina.”
Ex-England and Chelsea captain, John Terry wrote a heartfelt message to Mikel.
“@mikel_john_obi, what a great career my friend, it was a pleasure to play and share the dressing room with you. Love you Georgie Boy.”
As of the time of filing the report, over 32,000 fans had reacted to the post by the 91-cap ex-Eagles captain.
Mikel had made just six appearances for Norwegian side Lyn Oslo before he made a controversial switch to Chelsea in 2006, after earlier agreeing to join rivals Manchester United.
Chelsea ultimately had to reach a financial settlement with the Red Devils, their main Premier League rivals at the time, but they had no regrets snatching their jewel.
Over a decade-long stint, Mikel made a total of 372 appearances in all competitions, becoming a cult hero for his defensive performances and lack of goal threat with just six strikes during his time in West London.
Mikel was heavily involved in what till today remains one of the most talked about controversial racist allegations involving a player and referee.
After a feisty game against Manchester United in October 2012, the Blues made a formal complaint to the FA against Mark Clattenburg over an alleged use of “inappropriate language” towards Mikel, with a police investigation launched.
After a series of investigations, the FA cleared Clattenburg of wrongdoing and the police investigation was also subsequently dropped, but the referee in his book recently published revealed he would never forgive the Nigerian for an allegation that could have ruined his career.
“As for Mikel, I have no time for him whatsoever. I cannot forgive someone who has refused to apologise to me,” Clattenburg, who appears still hurt, said in his book.
“This could ruin my career. It could ruin my life. The fear is worse than going to prison. I am being called a racist. That is a real life sentence; you don’t come back from that.”
During his stint with the Blues, Mikel collected nine pieces of silverware, including two Premier League titles, but the crowning moment of his career came when he played a key role in Chelsea’s Champions League success in 2012.
From the quarter-finals onwards, Mikel played every minute, culminating in featuring for the entirety of Chelsea’s triumph over Bayern Munich in the final, which went to extra time and penalties.
As well as winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria in 2013, Mikel represented his country at the 2014 World Cup and claimed an Olympic bronze medal in 2016.
After a two-year with China with Tianjin TEDA, Mikel returned to English football with Middlesbrough, playing a season at the Riverside Stadium before moving to Turkish side Trabzonspor.
Having won the Turkish Cup, Mikel again accepted a contract at an English club, this time Stoke City, making 39 appearances in the Championship during the 2020/21 season.
Mikel last represented Kuwait SC, enduring an unsuccessful spell in the Middle-East and being left without a club throughout 2022.