Long-serving Nigerian midfielder Mikel John Obi has called time on his career in the Super Eagles after a 16-year national spell.

Mikel who made his debut for the Super Eagles in 2006 announced his decision to retire on his Instagram just a day after the Super Eagles won the bronze medal of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON)

Egypt is a country where I’ve started and have finished my National career. In 2006 I played my first official championship for my Country. 2019 African Cup of Nations marks my last championship for National Team with Super Eagles,” Mikel wrote in an Instagram post. 

His retirement brings to an end his duties with Nigeria, his country that he has represented since 2003. 

Mikel first appeared in national colours in 2003 when he represented Nigeria at the 2003 FIFA U17 World Cup in Finland. He went on to play for the Flying Eagles at the 2005 FIFA U20 World Cup where he led Nigeria to the final and finished as the second-best player of the tournament behind Lionel Messi

My national career started in 2003 under 17 World Cup and I’m grateful for 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 added. 

At the age of 32, it’s time for me to retire from the National team and let the youth take over, who’ve done an amazing job securing a bronze medal at AFCON 2019.

“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 year. Mikel am out!

National career

Mikel first represented Nigeria at the 2003 FIFA U17 World Cup then known as the FIFA U17 World Championship in Finland. 

Two years later, he was one of the players to watch out for ahead of the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship now known as the FIFA U20 World Cup.

Following the popular tussle between Premier League giants Chelsea and Manchester United for his signature, Mikel headed into the tournament in the Netherlands with the world watching and he didn’t disappoint. 

Playing in the number 10 role, Mikel connected the dots in the Samson Siasia team that got to the final where they lost to a Messi-led Argentina. He was also won the Silver Ball, the award for the second-best player of the tournament. 

Taye Taiwo, Lionel Messi and Mikel Obi
Taye Taiwo, Lionel Messi and Mikel Obi

He moved up to the Super Eagles and made his debut in August 2005. He then went on to represent Nigeria at the AFCON 2006 where he scored his first international goal. 

In total, Mikel played 90 times for the Super Eagles of Nigeria and scored six goals. He played in five tournaments including South Africa 2013 where he played a crucial role for Nigeria to win the title. 

Mikel John Obi and Joseph Yobo with the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title
Mikel John Obi and Joseph Yobo with the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title

The former Chelsea midfielder also played in two FIFA World Cup tournaments. 

Mikel also played in the Olympics where he led Nigeria’s U23 team to a Bronze Medal at 2016 Rio Olympic Games

John Mikel Obi
John Mikel Obi

His national team career was not without controversy. In 2007, he was suspended from the national team after he failed to honour a call-up, citing injury and then refusing to subject himself to a check-up by Nigerian officials. 

He was again suspended by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in 2008 for refusing to play for the U23 side and was dropped from the Olympic squad by Siasia. 

Mikel Obi started his football career in Nigeria with Plateau United before a move to Lyn in Norway. It was from Norway that he moved to Chelsea where he spent just over a decade. 

He moved to China in 2017 to play for Tianjin TEDA and spent the last six months of the 2018/2019 season on loan at English Championship side Middlesbrough

Earlier in July, the 32-year-old midfielder signed a two-year deal to join Turkish side Trabzonspor