In the first few seasons of the Abramovich era Chelsea had arguably the finest midfield in Europe. 

Frank Lampard was scoring more goals than most strikers, Michael Essien's seemingly limitless energy and power was destroying any unfortunate team to come up against him, and Claude Makalele locked everything up so tight that even Barcelona's midfield maestros struggled to get at Cech's goal. 

So naturally, when Chelsea went to war with Manchester United in 2005 over the young John Obi Mikel everybody assumed the next midfield boss was being added to the team.

A deal with United was apparently all sewn up and both parties were merely waiting for the window to open to announce the deal. The club held a press conference presenting the teenage Nigerian with the number 21 shirt and Mikel claimed to be "delighted" with the prospect of moving to - at the time - England's second best club.

He revealed he would join the Red Devils in the summer of 2006. Several months later stories started emerging of some seriously underhanded tactics used by both United and the player's club at the time, Lyn Oslo. 

Mikel claimed he had been coerced into signing the deal with United without being allowed his agent present. Mikel subsequently disappeared leading to some fanciful claims from both Oslo and Manchester, claiming Chelsea's Russian mob had kidnapped the player. 

After a few days it became apparent the youngster had fled to London with his agent where he gave Sky Sports his side of the story and that he desperately wanted to sign for Chelsea not United. 

This whole mess resulted in Chelsea having to pay United £12 million in compensation, and a meagre £4 million to the Norwegian club. So after possibly the messiest transfer in English history was it all worth it?

He was touted as some sort of hybrid between the mighty Makelele and the technically awesome Joe Cole. Solid, dependable defending with magic and creativity laced up in his size 11s. 

His first season was was pretty successful with the rising star notching up 24 appearances and scoring two goals in the FA Cup and resulted in him winning, for the second time, Africa's young player of the year. 

From there things stagnated and deteriorated. His second season showed no progress whatsoever as he, again, played 24 games this time, without a single goal. In fact, he only managed five shots all season. 

People also started to question his attitude after receiving two red cards, not a great return in 24 matches but as they say the second album is the hardest right? 

Early into season three, Michael Essien suffered a nasty knee injury offering Mikel his first real chance to show the Stamford Bridge faithful what he was all about, ultimately, not much.

The club had a fantastic season that year under Ancelotti, winning the double for the first time ever. The Italian tinkerman managed to get performances out of players that I doubt even the players themselves knew they were capable of, with Malouda being the standout player in those regards. 

Mikel played 47 games for Chelsea which sounds impressive but it was clearly out of necessity rather than ability. Makelele had gone to Madrid and Essien was on the physio table, so who else could the manager turn to? 

In nearly 50 games Mikel managed 6 shots on goal and provided two assists which might of been a decent return, were it not for the fact that Essien, in the same role, managed 3 goals and an assist in less than half the matches.

Since then under a series of managers with varying styles Mikel has been in and out of the team and I doubt even his biggest fan could truly claim he has delivered what was promised. 

He has proved himself useful at times and every now and then puts in a performance befitting of the hype and price surrounding his transfer. The Champions League final against Bayern Munich was probably the best performance of his career and yet the following season he was back to his sloppy sideways passing, unreliable defending and complete lack of any attacking threat. 

His attitude is still highly questionable too. Seemingly unfounded claims were made about referee Mark Clattenberg following some questionable decisions in Chelsea's defeat to Manchester United. 

After the club's embarrassing drop into the Europa League he angered a lot of Chelsea fans by claiming he found it hard to get fired up for the Europa League matches and that he didn't enjoy the competition. 

Tough words for a Chelsea fan to hear, as most would point to Mikel's terrible intercepted pass in Donetsk - which led to them scoring the winning goal - or the defence he was supposed to be protecting being easily broken down to squander a two goal lead to Juventus, as to the reasons why the club found themselves out of Champions League in the first place. 

Both scenarios would have been entirely avoidable with a completely reliable defensive midfielder.

It could be argued that with the change of formation to a 4-2-3-1 the need for a purely defensive player just isn't there anymore. Bayern had the best defensive duo in Europe last season in Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez. Both of whom have much more to their game than purely screening the defence. 

United won the Premier League without a proper defensive midfielder and Barcelona ran away with the La Liga title despite hardly having a defender on the pitch. 

Some people, possibly quite correctly, might say we are playing him in the wrong position and for us to see him at his best he should play as an attacking midfielder like he does for Nigeria. 

To those people I normally only have three things to say: Hazard, Mata, Oscar. Mikel may be a revelation played in the three but only a fool could possibly think he would be better than any of those three. 

He now also has to compete with options like Lampard, Van Ginkel and the return of Mourinho's beloved Essien. Young players like McEachran and Chalobah have excelled on recent loans, the latter has been strongly considered for a place in the squad this season and so with all of that considered how much really can Mikel hope to accomplish at Chelsea anymore?

Mikel has won everything with Chelsea and has played his part in every trophy but ultimately it is time to move on. It will clearly be best for all involved if a deal can be reached with Galatasaray. 

The club can recuperate the £16 million they initially paid for him if the recent rumours are to be believed, money which could well invested in a centre forward, a considerably weaker area of the squad. 

His wages wouldn't really be effected either due to the tax levies and big wages offered in Turkey, financially he might even be off over there. 

Regular football, excellent wages and the beautiful land and weather that Turkey can offer surely has to be more appealing than warming the bench in London? I guess only time will tell.

 

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Topics:
#Premier League
#Manchester United
#John Obi Mikel
#Juan Mata
#Michael Essien
#Eden Hazard
#Chelsea
#Claude Makelele
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