John Mikel Obi will always be remembered for his dedication, commitment, contribution, and world-class performances for the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
The AFCON 2013 winner was a player who always divided opinions amongst Nigerian fans.
You could argue that he was focused on his club career in the early stages of his career but in all, he was dedicated to the Super Eagles course and had to suffer sometimes.
In Russia 2018, Mikel Obi played for Nigeria against Argentina even when he was informed of his father’s kidnap hours into the game.
“I had to suppress the trauma. I took a call four hours before kick-off to tell me what had happened,” said Mikel in 2018.
“I was emotionally distraught and I had to make the decision about whether I was mentally ready to play. I was confused. I did not know what to do but, in the end, I knew that I could not let 180 million Nigerians down.
“I had to shut it out of my head and go and represent my country first. I could not even inform the coaches or NFF staff and only a very tight circle of my friends knew.”
He played for Nigeria at the Rio 2016 Olympics even when he was told by his then Chelsea manager Antonio Conte that he would not play for the club again if he left for Brazil.
“He was saying, ‘If you do that, you won’t be a part of this team,” said Mikel about Conte in 2020.
“The club respected me because of what I had done for them and how long I’d been there.
“So off I went and I felt punished for that. I came back and I didn’t make the squad. I was never on the squad list on match days again.”
John Obi Mikel went on to represent the Super Eagles of Nigeria 91 times making him 4th most capped with only Ahmed Musa (106), Vincent Enyeama, and Jospeh Yobo (101 each) ahead of him.
The year 2013 was a great year for him, he lost the African Footballer of the year award to Yaya Toure, played for the Super Eagles 17 times, and scored a great goal.
Here are his top three performances in Super Eagles colours
3. Nigeria 2-1 Ivory Coast (AFCON Quarterfinal)
Looked like the end of the road for Mikel Obi and the Super Eagles, no one gave the team any chance of progressing beyond the mighty Elephants.
I wouldn’t blame the bookmakers and fans who rated the Ivorians the overwhelming favourites, with Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure in your ranks you will eternally be the favourites.
But John Mikel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi, Kenneth Omeruo, and Emmanuel Emenike played great to help Nigeria win the game.
Mikel particularly had Yaya Toure under his wings and prevented him from expressing himself.
2. Nigeria 1-2 Uruguay (Confederation Cup 2013)
John Mikel Obi scored one of his 6th international goals in this game. He controlled the tempo of the game and was unfortunate to lose the game.
3. Nigeria 0-3 Spain (Confederation Cup 2013)
The Super Eagles midfielder showed class in this game and was too good in this game against the great Spanish team that had Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquet.