Nigeria finished third at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament, beating Tunisia in the third place match on Wednesday.
The only Chelsea player (for now, anyway) to be involved was defender Kenneth Omeruo, who’s had himself an excellent tournament. Alongside former Chelsea prospect Ola Aina, Omeruo was one of the many younger Super Eagles (Super Fledglings?) who took on important roles this summer.
And that’s in part what has motivated Chelsea legend Mikel John Obi to call curtains on his international career. Mikel was part of the squad but featured in just 2 of the 7 games. The baton had already been passed; today he just made it official.
“Egypt is a country where I’ve started and have finished my National career. In 2006 I played my first official championship for my Country. 2019 African Cup of Nations marks my last championship for National Team with Super Eagles.
“My national career started in 2003 under 17 World Cup and I’m grateful for the national team for placing me on the world arena and giving me an opportunity to show my skill and have an incredible National and International career.
“At the age of 32 it’s time for me to retire from the National team and let the youth take over, who’ve done an amazing job securing a bronze medal at AFCON 2019.
“Thank you to all my Nigerian supporters and to my Country for all the trust, support and love you’ve shown me over the past 15 years.”
While most players consider it an honor to represent their nation, for Mikel it also served as the springboard to a legendary career with Chelsea.
After all, it was at the U17 World Cup in 2003 that he first was noticed (and changing his named from Michael to Mikel, thanks to a clerical error). His talent was confirmed at the U20 World Cup in 2005, when he came a close second to a certain Lionel Messi in both the final and in the voting for the tournament’s best player.
By then he was knee-deep in the transfer controversy between Norwegian side Lyn, Manchester United, and Chelsea. A year later, when the dust had settled, Mikel pulled on the Blue shirt, and the rest, as they say, is history.
While he may be done on the international scene — which includes a 2013 ACN winners’ medal and an Olympic bronze from 2016 (which practically ended his Chelsea career at the same time) — Mikel’s still going strong in his club career. He recently joined Trabzonspor on a two-year deal, after a recent spell at Middlesbrough.
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