Jose Mourinho recently revealed why he changed John Mikel Obi from an attacker to a defender during their time at Chelsea.
Before Mourinho came in 2006, Obi was a top young playmaker. Mourinho explained his choice, emphasizing the need for physical strength and simplicity for defensive midfielders, except for rare cases like Claude Makelele.
Mourinho stressed the importance of humility in defensive midfielders, putting the team above individual interests.
Reflecting on Mikel’s time at Chelsea, Mourinho praised his adaptability, describing him as a fantastic player with quick thinking and a simple game.
In his words, “I liked everything about Mikel. If you go through all the positional [defensive] midfield players that I have had during my career, there are lots of similar things,” Mourinho said on the ObiOne Podcast.
“Aside from Claude Makelele who was small, I had them all tall and physically strong. They also knew how to occupy space and they have what I call ‘the simplicity of football’, which is fundamental in that position.
“The team needs balance, with or without the ball. A defensive midfielder needs to be humble in the sense that they recognize that the team is more important than themselves.
“With me at Chelsea, Mikel was a fantastic positional midfield player, very quick thinking, one touch, two touches, everything was simple, and the game was flowing.”
Mikel, in his Chelsea stint, made 249 league appearances, contributing to two Premier League titles, four FA Cup wins, and success in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.