Why Middlesbrough must extend Jon Obi Mikel immediately
Background photo: Chemical Engineer
Every team needs a Mikel.
Those were the words of former England manager Steve McClaren after his QPR side succumbed 2-nil to Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
If there was ever any doubt regarding John Mikel Obi influence on Boro it was soundly cleared by McClaren – The Queens Park Rangers manager described Mikel as an excellent signing who has brought stability, solidity and control to Boro’s midfield.
Middlesbrough fans have welcomed Mikel with open arms. And the Nigerian has repaid their faith with a string of assured performances. But Mikel only has a six-month contract with Boro. Which means he could leave the Riverside in June – unless Boro does something about it.
Premier League fans are well aware of the talent possessed by Mikel. While at Chelsea, he lined his trophy cabinet with multiple domestic and European titles before leaving for the Far East to play for Tianjin Teda.
The one year Mikel spent in China seemed a period under the radar. Many didn’t know he skippered the Super League side and helped them avoid relegation. Teda was impressed and wanted to extend his £140,000-per-week contract. For family reasons, he chose not to. Instead, he returned to England a free agent.
Crystal Palace showed interest, but it was Middlesbrough and Tony Pulis who convinced him to join their course in the Championship. It was deemed a gamble at the time – this was a player who recently recovered from an injury and hasn’t played a competitive game since. Plus he’ll be 32 in April.
All that apprehension was cleared immediately Mikel donned for Boro. The elegance, panache and experience he exuded turned heads. In fact, it turned Boro’s fortunes. The supporters acknowledged and coined a song in his honour. Even the little ones knew it by heart.
The fans came up with a chant for him. Here are two kids singing it.
Video: @ben_needham. https://t.co/WZMN7TzSYa
Since his debut Boro in a Cup game against Newport County, Boro have tasted just one defeat in six games when Mikel has played. He’s scarcely put a foot wrong. The club’s Twitter handle went on to describe him as a Rolls Royce of a midfielder.
Besides what has been mentioned, what Mikel has done for Boro is influence the players around him with a winning mentality. Especially the midfielders. One player in particular is Muhamed Besic. The Bosnian defensive midfielder has continued to blossom under Pulis. And the manager hopes he can get better playing and living next to Mikel. Besic is due to return to Everton in May – but before that time comes, Boro is relying heavily on him to help them win promotion this season; just as they are on Mikel.
Since Mikel has proved everyone but Pulis wrong, it’s time for Middlesbrough to call in Mikel for contract talks. The Olympics bronze medalist has less than five months left on his deal with Boro. Waiting till May could see them lose the midfielder for nothing.
Boro must bear in mind how much they’ve advertised Mikel to every Championship and Premier League club. The statement by QPR’s McClaren (about every club needing a Mikel) makes it even clearer – teams are going to try and persuade Mikel to jump ship. It’ll be worse if Boro fails in their bid to get the promoted to the Premier League at season’s end.
Middlesbrough doesn’t need to offer Mikel anything long-term. A two-year contract would suffice. Even if he turns out to be a flash in the pan, which by the way is very unlikely; it would be a worthy sacrifice for a player who stole hearts at the Riverside in one month of wearing Red.