It took the war of words between Mikel and Emmanuel Emenike to expose the rift and the swell of angst that had built up over time against the Chelsea midfielder.
But we had inkling about what was transpiring when a player that represented the Eagles at the 2013 Confederations Cup revealed that the team had to follow Mikel's leading on the pitch because everyone had to adjust to his mood and position regardless of what Coach Stephen Keshi had told the team.
"We needed to see the position he would play before you decide on where to play." This scenario played out at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Cup and it led to Nosa Igiebor being dropped after the first game against Zambia because he did not agree to be 'elastic' and 'malleable'. Or in simple terms – he was supposed to adjust his game to suit Mikel's game, this he did not do and other players that were ready to do that bidding got the nod ahead of him in subsequent matches.
Mikel also has a history of totally disregarding the Nigerian press, assuming an air of arrogance that totally aggravated people.
During the World Cup qualifiers, 'king' Mikel always had two bodyguards with him in Calabar always, these two guys also acted in other capacities, which were totally against camp rules but the coach could not drop him because he was playing a critical role in developing the team that the coach was building.
But in Brazil, it all came to a head as Emenike confronted Mikel on his utter waywardness and the lack of respect he showed to the other players, especially the new guys on the team.
Eyewitness account as narrated to FCNaija said Mikel spoke disparagingly to Ramon Azeez for a hard tackle at training which totally sucked the confidence out of the young midfielder – a situation that had persisted over time as the 'king' could to be marked in training or the marker could incur the wrath of the supposed ruler of the Eagles kingdom.
Emenike, who plays in Turkey in Fenerbahce and is reasonable well off told Mikel off. The clash almost degenerated into fisticuffs but for the intervention of some other players and officials of the Nigeria Football Federation.
Emenike was said to have asked Mikel how much he earns at Chelsea that he would not allow everybody any moment's rest. He added that if Mikel was not ready to play for the country, he should go back to his club. The coach was said to have settled that infraction but the seed of mistrust and discord has been sown in the team.
Against France, a top NFF official disclosed to African Football that Mikel kicked against the introduction of Azeez in place of the injured Ogenyi Onazi. And television pictures showed that Azeez was the first player called for by Keshi before he 'had a change of mind' or had his mind changed and Reuben Gabriel was preferred to the Almeria midfielder.
"Mikel made it very clear to Keshi that he did not wish for Ramon [Azeez] to play alongside him in midfield and that was why Azeez was asked to sit down." That was taking his power to the wrong level as it may have cost his country that he swore to defend.
But Mikel has always been a bit full of himself – maybe as regarding journalists, whom he believes are always out to beg him for handouts. One colleague spoke of a meeting with the Eagles midfielder at his club, Chelsea FC in London, but even after introducing himself as being from Nigeria, he was then completely snubbed. But that colleague went on to have good conversations with John Terry and Frank Lampard – these are established world-class superstars; they welcomed the Nigerian reporter's questions and dropped him off at the train station afterwards. The Bible says that the Lord hates the proud and that pride goes before a fall.
But all of this would have mattered little – good or excellent players are supposed to have a chip on their shoulder, but for the fact that all this pomposity did not translate to any good performances on the pitch at the World Cup and his rating amongst Nigerian football fans took such a buffeting that by the end of the match against France, Nigerians had devised a moniker for the Chelsea man; the unit of slowing down is now known as a Mikel.
Mikel's career will start to unravel very soon as most fans are quite fed up with his way of playing for the national team and at his club. With the arrival of Cesc Fabregas, it remains to be seen if the gauge of his pride – Chelsea, would remain his domain.
Of all the No.10s that have shown up in Brazil, Mikel made the least contribution to his team. We can talk extensively about Neymar for Brazil; James Rodriguez for Colombia; Lionel Messi for Argentina, Karim Benzema for France and even Bryan Ruiz for Costa Rica but about the Nigerian the picture is of him complaining of being dispossessed of the ball and urging his mates to get it back for him. At Chelsea, he cannot do that but he is afforded that luxury with the national team but still he failed to perform!
By Jide Alaka
Culled from FC NAIJA
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By: SAMOD BIOBAKU