Nigerian midfielder, Mikel Obi, is approaching the twilight of his career at Chelsea following his return from the 2016 Rio Olympics football event where he led his country to a historic Bronze medal.
The 29-year-old who joined the Blues in 2006 from Lyn Oslo is just three games shy of amassing 250 appearances – making him the second longest-serving player in the current squad, behind skipper, John Terry.
Like a cat with nine lives, Mikel has survived eight full-time managerial changes at Chelsea, from Jose Mourinho’s conquering first spell in 2006 to his awful second last term, the Nigerian overtime, finds a way of breaking into the squad of these managers’ despite endlessly being described as average.
“With Claude Makelele leaving I was sure Mikel could be the player to play in his position in the future,” former Chelsea coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, told the Sun in 2011.
Fast forward, five seasons after, the Blues no 12 still had a similar effect despite the club’s abysmal title defence last season.
“He can recover his radar, he reads the game very well, he knows where the strength of the opponent is and knows how to combat that,” ex-Blues boss, Guus Hiddink, said about the Nigerian.
Now with the Dutchman gone and Antonio Conte in charge, Mikel is facing his biggest test yet at Chelsea.
The Super Eagles skipper opted to represent Nigeria at last summer Olympics which made him unavailable for the first four weeks of the new season aside missing the latter stages of pre-season.
Since his return from the international break, Mikel has been unable to force his way into Conte’s plans – highlighted in last week’s League Cup snub against Leicester City.
And the form of summer signing, N’Golo Kante, might mean the Nigerian may have to wait even longer before making his first appearance this season.
The worst of them all is that the former Plateau United man is in the final year of the five year contract he signed in 2012 and admits an exit looms.
“I’ve been here for a long, long time. I’ve spent 11 years of my life in this football club, it is my home. This season is the last at the club if my contract ends. I am quite relaxed about it; the future looks good,” the 29-year-old told Goal.
Many are already looking at a January 2017 transfer for Mikel.