Super Eagles midfielder Mikel Obi has been described as one of the best players available to Chelsea by the team’s manager Roberto di Matteo. The Italian, who spoke in London on the eve of their UEFA Champions League match against FC Nordsjaelland of Denmark, said it was very unfortunate that fans had always misunderstood the role played by the Nigerian on the pitch for the Stamford Bridge team.
Mikel, whose contribution to the Eagles has also been a source of debate, was vilified by Chelsea fans when his error earned Juventus an equaliser a fortnight ago at Stamford Bridge. But on Monday, Di Matteo rose to the defence of his player.
Di Matteo told the London Evening Standard, “I don’t know why he’s underrated by the fans — he’s very rated by us in the group. It’s the kind of position where you’re a bit of an unsung hero, where you do the dirty work which isn’t recognised all the time because the goalscorers and the creative players get that recognition.
“He’s physically strong, breaks up the game and is getting better on the ball, setting the tempo of our team. We’re happy to have him.
“He takes responsibility as well when receiving the ball under pressure. He should get more credit for it.”
Mikel was forced to close down his Twitter account last week following fans hate messages sent to him. No matter how fans may judge the midfielder recruited by Jose Mourinho, his teammates also believe so much in his ability. Goalkeeper Petr Cech backed Di Matteo.
He said, “Everybody has their opinion, but ever since John Obi joined us, he’s been a player who has played a lot of games — all the important games.
“He’s never missing. If he’s available for selection, he plays. He’s very useful and part of our success in the last few years. He’s a massive player for us and we’re happy to have him in the team, no matter what other people think.”
Mikel’s days appeared numbered at Stamford Bridge under Andre Villas-Boas until the Portuguese was sacked in March. His fortunes and performances improved once Di Matteo took over and he played key roles in wins over Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the Champions League. He has continued to command a regular position this season also.
Mikel is making a return to the Nigerian team with the match in Calabar against Liberia on October 13.
Cuddled from punchng