Mikel Obi was one of the best young attacking midfielders after the 2005 Under-20 World Cup, but Mourinho altered his position when he joined Chelsea
Former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho has revealed that he changed Nigerian international Mikel Obi to a defensive midfielder because the former Super Eagles star had the attributes to play in that position, Soccernet.ng reports.
Mikel was only second-best to Argentina attacker Lionel Messi at the 2005 Under-20 World Cup. He was superb in that competition and helped Nigeria to a second-place finish in the competition.
After the competition, Manchester United were interested in signing him, but after some drama, he ended up at Chelsea under the tutelage of Mourinho.
After his transfer to Chelsea, Mourinho surprisingly converted Mikel to a defensive midfielder. The former Super Eagles star then went on to play as a defensive midfielder throughout his stay at Chelsea. Nonetheless, he still played as an attacking midfielder for the Super Eagles.
Mourinho has now opened up on his reason for changing Mikel’s position.
“I liked everything about Mikel. If you go through all the positional[defensive] midfield players that I have had during my career, there are lots of similar things,” Mourinho said on the ObiOne Podcast.
“Aside from Claude Makelele who was small, I had them all tall and physically strong. They also knew how to occupy space and they have what I call ‘the simplicity of football’, which is fundamental in that position.
“The team needs balance, with or without the ball. A defensive midfielder needs to be humble in the sense that they recognize that the team is more important than themselves.
“With me at Chelsea, Mikel was a fantastic positional midfield player, very quick thinking, one touch, two touch, everything was simple, and the game was flowing.
“He was not a guy to win a race of 100 meters, but everything was fast with him on the ball and he understood the situation of the game.”
Mourinho’s decision to play Mikel as a defensive midfielder eventually paid off, as he had a trophy-laden eleven-year stay at Chelsea.