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Mikel Obi ends miserable stint in China for one last Super Eagles chance

After the highs of leading the Super Eagles to their short but roller-coasting 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign, it has been a tough seven months for Mikel John Obi. 

Mikel managed just six out of 18 games for Tianjin TEDA after the World Cup due to a series of injuries. As he struggled for fitness, he stayed away from national team duties as the Super Eagles secured qualification to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in his absence. 
The midfielder seems a distant memory with the Super Eagles but he has set his mind on making a return and that’s why the move to Middlesbrough makes sense. The move offers him a chance to first regain much-needed match fitness and play regularly in the Championshipwhose level is considerably higher than that of the Chinese Super League. 
John Mikel Obi had an underwhelming stint in China where he missed 29 games out of 20 (Twitter/Tianjin TEDA)
It is indeed candour to say that Mikel’s inclusion in the Super Eagles in recent years was for the sake of his status and not his form. He had a forgettable two-year stay in China where he struggled for fitness. In two seasons with Tianjin TEDA, he missed 29 games from 60. 
After his seven-month absence, the midfielder has to make the job of recalling him to the national team easier for Gernot Rohr. He had the safer and less strenuous choice of staying back in China, but Mikel’s one last push for national glory with the Super Eagles has pressed him to the less glamorous but difficult Championship in England. 
Nigeria seem to be ready for the post-Mikel Super Eagles as the combination of Wilfred NdidiOghenekaro Etebo and Alex Iwobi have been impressive so far in his absence, so AFCON 2019 has to be his last tournament. But his experience and leadership will still be needed within the squad while the chase for a second AFCON title-the first by any Nigerian in history-is another good reason to justify his inclusion. 
Mikel Obi has not been a sore miss for the Super Eagles of Nigeria (Getty Images)
AFCON 2019, however, is still far away and Mikel has to immediately get on the task at hand which to help Middlesbrough continue their push for promotion to the Premier League
At 31- he turns 32 in April-Mikel does not have enough in him to be a regular for Middlesbrough. He cannot bring the much-needed vim and verve which the scrappy Championship demands. His side-ways passes can be frustrating so also is his inability to be a goal threat. 

He, however, remains a manager’s delight as a player who only plays strictly to instructions, spends minimal time with the ball and provides a shield in the middle of the park. In him, Tony Pulis has a player who can dispute the ball well and add crucial experience to aid Middlesbrough's promotion push. 
Mikel Obi ends miserable stint in China for one last Super Eagles chance Mikel Obi ends miserable stint in China for one last Super Eagles chance Reviewed by opeyemi on 7:07:00 am Rating: 5