Norwich City legend Efan Ekoku and former Stoke City defender Gabriel Zakuani have joined forces to pay tribute to retired midfielder John Obi Mikel, hailing him as one of Africa’s greatest players to grace the Premier League, Soccernet.ng reports.
The duo’s endorsement came during the latest episode of the esteemed Match of the Day Africa podcast, where Mikel was shortlisted as one of the top 10 African midfielders.
Efan Ekoku, a former Premier League striker and Norwich City Hall of Fame inductee, minced no words in expressing his admiration for Mikel’s talents.
“He (Mikel) was a specialist in front of the back four,” said Ekoku, a 1994 Africa Cup of Nations winner.
“He was a great continuity player, he wasn’t a fantastic passer of the ball but he was always available and had this ability to find space. He had that intelligence.”
Gabriel Zakuani, a former Stoke City defender, added his voice to the praise for Mikel.
“He’s one of those players who, when he’s not playing, you notice a lot more,” Zakuani noted.
“Maybe some football fans don’t really see what he does, he can look invisible, but he’s so important to the team.”
Obi Mikel’s incredible career
To truly understand Mikel’s remarkable journey, we must delve into his illustrious career.
Beginning with his formative years at local club Plateau United, Mikel quickly caught the eye of Norwegian outfit Lyn, who secured his services at the tender age of 17 in 2004.
However, his move to the English Premier League giants Chelsea in 2006 was shrouded in controversy, as Manchester United claimed to have already signed him.
Unfazed by the off-pitch drama, Mikel embarked on an 11-year spell at Chelsea, leaving an indelible mark on the club’s history.
During his tenure, Mikel clinched two Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two Football League Cups, one FA Community Shield, the UEFA Champions League in 2012, and the UEFA Europa League in 2013.
In 2017, Mikel set his sights on China, where he donned the colors of Tianjin TEDA for two years. However, his heart still yearned for the allure of English football.
Thus, he returned to the country, signing a short-term deal with Middlesbrough before making a free transfer to Turkish club Trabzonspor in July 2019.
The pull of English football proved irresistible once again, and Mikel reunited with English football in August 2020, this time as a Stoke City player.
Throughout his extensive international career, from 2005 to 2019, Mikel proudly represented Nigeria, amassing an impressive tally of 91 appearances and scoring six goals for his country.