Like a beautiful fairytale, Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel has announced his retirement from international football, on the same stage he announced himself to the rest of the continent 13 years ago.
Mikel, who was part of Nigeria’s team at the Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Egypt 2019 had hinted at the beginning of the competition that he was hugely considering retiring at the end of the campaign and reiterated this further after their quarter finals win over South Africa that it was about time.
“At the age of 32 it’s time for me to retire from the National team and let the youth take over. They have done an amazing job securing a bronze medal at AFCON 2019,” Mikel said as he made the official announcement on his Instagram page on Thursday.
Mikel made his official debut for the Super Eagles at the 2006 Cup if Nations hosted here in Egypt and has gone on to make a remarkable run with the side, leading them to the last World Cup as well as a bronze medal in the AFCON, though he played in only two matches.
“My national career started in 2003 at the Under 17 World Cup and I’m grateful to 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,” Mikel further stated.
He added; “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.”
The midfielder who has recently left English second tier side Middlesbrough will be concentrating on his new Turkish Club Trabzonspor.
Mikel has played 94 times for the Super Eagles, scoring seven goals. Mikel represented the Nigeria under-20 team at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship and won the Silver Ball for the second-best player at the tournament, behind Lionel Messi.
He made his debut for the Nigeria senior team on 17 August 2005, when he came on as a second-half substitute in a 1–0 friendly win over Libya.
He won the AFCON with Nigeria in 2013, the Olympic bronze medal in Rio 2016 as well as played in two World Cups, 2014 in Rio and 2018 in Russia as captain. He has been previously named African Young Player of the Year in 2005 and 2006.
He made his name turning out for English premier League giants Chelsea playing in London from 20006 to 2017. He won the English Premier League title twice, the FA Cup thrice, the League Cup, Community Shield, Champions League and Europa League all once.
He was named the Chelsea Young player of the year in 2007 and 2008.