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John Mikel Obi's Emotional Return to Stamford Bridge: Legends, Memories, and a Youthful Glow

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

John Mikel Obi's Emotional Return to Stamford Bridge: Legends, Memories, and a Youthful Glow []
John Mikel Obi's Emotional Return to Stamford Bridge: Legends, Memories, and a Youthful Glow []

John Mikel Obi, a Chelsea icon, recently had the chance to step onto the hallowed Stamford Bridge turf once more, a moment he missed when his illustrious Chelsea career came to an unceremonious end.

Unlike some of his fellow Chelsea legends, including John Terry and Gary Cahill, who received grand farewells, Mikel's departure was not pre-planned when he played his last game in May 2016 at Anfield. Thus, the applause and accolades he deserved were put on hold.

Mikel continued to wear the Chelsea colours for half a season without hitting the pitch until, with his contract nearing its conclusion and French midfielder N'Golo Kante's emergence, he departed in January 2017. His Chelsea journey spanned over a decade and yielded an impressive haul of 10 major trophies.

Now, six-and-a-half years later, Mikel found himself back on the Stamford Bridge pitch, striding confidently. The reunion felt like he had never left, affording him the long-awaited opportunity to express his gratitude to the Chelsea faithful.

Reflecting on the experience, the 36-year-old Nigerian shared as reported: "I think it did make up for it a little bit. When I was coming out, I could feel the fans clapping and cheering. That brought some emotion out of me, coming back and playing and some of the actions that happened in the game. They brought back a lot of good memories. It just felt like we were back, the old Chelsea, the way we were on the front foot."

While Mikel hung up his boots almost a year ago, his exceptional physical condition allowed him to play a substantial part in Saturday's match at the Bridge, leaving him looking scarcely a day older than his last appearance in a Chelsea jersey in 2016. With a grin, he quipped: "I look younger, don't I?" He attributed his enduring fitness to taking better care of himself, maintaining a healthy diet, and staying committed to training.

The significance of facing Bayern Munich on Saturday was not lost on Mikel. In the memorable 2012 Champions League final, while Petr Cech and Didier Drogba captured the spotlight, Mikel's midfield prowess didn't go unnoticed. He reminisced: "My best-ever game. I should have won the man of the match, but Didier obviously came good and saved the day. I've watched that game a few times since."

As he stood on the pitch, reliving a career high point, Mikel exclaimed: "There's nothing better than this." Surrounded by familiar faces and echoes of the past, it was a moment of pure nostalgia. "Popping the ball around, seeing JT and Petr behind us, it just brings back memories. Having Michael Essien in the middle with me, it was a joy tonight."

Mikel also commended the quality of the Legends game, emphasising the enduring Chelsea mentality of always striving for victory when playing at home. As the evening concluded, it was evident that Mikel's connection with Chelsea and Stamford Bridge remains as strong as ever, a testament to the indelible mark he left on the club.

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