Former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel has responded to some of the harsh criticisms sent his direction by former Super Eagles manager Sunday Oliseh a fortnight ago.
Oliseh had, in a no-holds-barred interview, shaded Mikel as nothing more than a useful player who possessed no offensive qualities and was only half as good as Wilfred Ndidi as a defensive midfielder.
Augustine Eguavoen handed Mikel his Super Eagles debut in 2005, while Oliseh gave Ndidi his international bow ten years later.
Oliseh said: “He’s (Mikel’s) a player who’s done some good with Chelsea. But when you talk about playing as an offensive midfielder, he’s not an offensive midfielder.
“My man here knows I’m blunt to say certain things. Offensive midfielders have certain qualities and he doesn’t have any of them. As regards as a defensive midfielder, I think he’s useful but I won’t play him. I’ll play Ndidi because a defensive midfielder’s work is you have to win balls without making fouls; you have to be very good in aerial balls. You have to have some control by helping others.”
Taking a higher moral ground, however, Mikel has refused to join issues with the former Ajax midfielder and current head coach of German fourth-tier side SV Straelen.
Mikel insists he enjoyed a solid relationship with everyone he worked with at the national team, including Sunday Oliseh. And the 35-year-old has called on his compatriot to show others respect and not seek unnecessary attention.
“Unfortunately, it was the opposite because I have a solid relationship with the player just like others in the national team,” Mikel said.
“I read it just the same way I learnt a few days ago about my disagreement with Sunday Oliseh when he was the coach.
“All these are mere distractions and I will not want to join issues with anyone. Respect is the key rather than unnecessary attention.”
Throwing back his own jab, Mikel snubbed Oliseh when naming the managers he enjoyed playing under when with the Super Eagles.
During a decade-and-a-half-year spell wearing the colours of the three-time African champions, Mikel saw several gaffers – indigenous and foreign – take charge of the national team.
The 2012 Champions League-winning star retains fond memories of working with Samson Siasia, Gernot Rohr, and Eguavoen.
But Mikel holds in higher esteem the late Stephen Keshi, who guided the Super Eagles to their most recent triumph at the Africa Cup of Nations.
“In the national team, it’s a straightforward answer, late Stephen Okechukwu Keshi (Big Boss),” the former Trabzonspor ace replied to a question regarding the best coach in his career.
“I have not seen a man like him; he was a special person; I recalled the way he resolves problems and he was such a calm fellow with the way he dishes out instructions.
“Everything was just perfect and during the games, he knows what he was doing and we all respect him for that as a former player, captain and manager.”
At the club level, Mikel reveals that Italian tactician Roberto Di Matteo had a more significant impact on his Chelsea career than Jose Mourinho.