John Obi Mikel may have to leave Chelsea

Super Eagles captain John Obi Mikel will lead his country into battle in the upcoming World Cup Qualifying clash with Zambia, but while his international future under Genort Rohr remains secure, the same could not be said for his career at club level. The 29-year-old has yet to play a single minute in all competitions this season for English Premier League side Chelsea, and although it is still early days under new manager Antonio Conte, the midfielder might have to consider his future at Stamford Bridge. Mikel may have missed the first couple of games due to representing his country at the Olympics this summer, but it is surprising that he has not featured for Chelsea given how impressive he was. He led by example as Nigeria picked up the bronze medal for their efforts in Rio, but while Betway believe that his club are amongst the contenders to finish in the top four in the latest online betting odds, Mikel may have to leave in order to stay in Yussuf’s plans.

There is no question that the Super Eagles captain is an integral part of the team moving forwards, particularly during the World Cup qualifying campaign in which Nigeria will face tough games against Zambia, Cameroon and Algeria. Mikel has denied suggestions that he is currently injured and will be unable to take to the pitch at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola, but while that is good news for Super Eagles fans, it raises a question as to why the midfielder has yet to play for Chelsea if he has stated that he is fit and ready to play. The summer signing of N’Golo Kante from surprise champions of last season, Leicester City, has appeared to knock Mikel further down the pecking order, and despite entering into his eleventh campaign as a Chelsea player, it could prove to be his last. Mikel needs to be playing regular first-team football to not only remain in good condition, but also be in the best possible shape leading up to international commitments with Nigeria. His position with the Super Eagles may be safe due to Yussuf’s decision to give Mikel the captain’s armband, but the fact that he has not even been on the bench for Chelsea could become a cause for concern if Conte continues to leave him out in the cold.

Mikel will certainly face a decision in January if his situation at Chelsea does not change, and although he appears willing to fight for his place in the team, moving away from Stamford Bridge may be the best thing for his career. There is unlikely to be a shortage of takers for the Super Eagles captain, with his power, stamina and defensive qualities likely to come in handy for a team who are in need of a defensive enforcer. Some would argue that Mikel was a more dynamic and effective player when he played as an attacking midfielder, but he plays a pivotal role in allowing the likes of Victor Moses and Ogenyi Onazi to express themselves further up the pitch by sitting deep to break up attacks and distribute the ball forward. Having the captain fit and available may make fans confidence enough of a Nigeria win against Zambia to add it to your betslip on Betway’s website, and as Chipolopolo have not beaten the Super Eagles since 1997, there is every chance that Mikel will lead his country to the best possible start in Group B.

It remains to be seen whether the Super Eagles captain has the match sharpness to be effective against Zambia, but Yussuf is likely to place his faith in Mikel to lead the team and drive them forward. Getting off to a good start could prove to be crucial given the difficult nature of the group and the fact that only one team goes through to play in the 2018 World Cup in Russia; three points could set the tone for a strong qualifying campaign which could ultimately be decided by who remains in form and keeps calm when the pressure is on. Mikel certainly demonstrates the latter in abundance when he is on the pitch wearing the Super Eagles shirt, but his lack of opportunities at Chelsea could result in a move which benefits his career and Nigeria moving forwards.