Former Green Eagles Captain, Segun Odegbami's comments on why John Mikel Obi failed to win the 2013 Glo-CAF African Footballer of the Year award has drawn flak from the camp of the Nigeria and Chelsea midfield stalwart.
Mikel's Manager and Agent, Olatunji John Shittu, told THISDAY on telephone from his United Kingdom base yesterday that Odegbami's reactions on the CAF award was malicious and in bad taste.
Shittu was furious that the ex-international could dismiss Mikel as a lukewarm footballer despite the young lad's achievements for both club and country.
"We are not surprised at what he said about Mikel. Odegbami wrote and said worse things about NFF President, Aminu Maigari. Today, he is following the same Maigari about, singing his praises everywhere," observed Shittu.
The London-based FIFA agent insisted that he cannot describe the sudden shift of attention from eulogizing Mikel to the one of hate.
"The Odegbami who claimed he can't recall a decisive pass, a great dribble or moment of magic from Mikel, had said on April 12, 2012 after watching Mikel that the Chelsea player was simply awesome. This was what Odegbami wrote about Mikel's performance: 'As a footballer, I am envious of watching Mikel Obi playing football at the highest level and I believe Nigerians are motivated watching him play for one of the best clubs in the world and in the most followed football tournament, the UEFA Champions League.
The young lad was all over the place, closing all the gaps alongside his team mates and frustrating Barcelona from translating domination into goals all through the semi-final tie. This exploit no doubt is an inspiration to the youths who hope one day to play at the top level as well," Shittu recalled what the former Green Eagles player wrote. Shittu said that he was at a loss to explain why the sudden change of opinion about Mikel.
"So, what has changed between April 2012 when he paid glowing tribute to Mikel for being outstanding against some of the world's best like Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and other greats and now? I don't believe a person of his calibre in football can be shouting Hosanna today then it becomes crucify him tomorrow," reasoned Mikel's manager.
He described Odegbami's claim that when Mikel is not featured on the Chelsea team he is rarely missed and whenever he featured he is not expected to do anything extra ordinary as rubbish talk. "This man needs to be told that football has evolved from the days of a defender sending a long pass to the winger who then runs like a rabbit and crosses into the 18-yards box. Football today has gone hi-tech, computerised and scientific. I just believe that he no longer understands the dynamics of the modern game," stressed Shittu. He believes that there must be something special in Mikel to warrant two of the greatest football managers in history, Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, to want to have Mikel's signature.
"Since Mikel joined Chelsea, he has played for some of the best managers in the world like Mourinho, Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto di Matteo, Rafael Benitez and all of them acknowledged his importance to the team. Football in Europe is not played with sentiments; all players on the pitch make important contributions.
"Perhaps, Odegbami thinks European managers use his style of management, which led to his mismanagement of clubs like 3SC, NPA and Gateway football club in the past." Shittu recalled that Mourinho called Mikel a jewel and pure diamond when he met the young boy about a decade ago and that today Mourinho has nothing but praises for him, describing him as Chelsea's anchorman who reads the game well, plays in an intelligent and safe way.
Shittu said Odegbami, in his rush to bring down Mikel, failed to get his facts right as he claimed Mikel has made 400 appearances for Chelsea.
"This is not true. To say Chelsea recruited a player whom they expected to be inconsequential in the team is an insult on the intelligence of Piet de Visser, who brought Romario and Ronaldo to Europe; who first recommended Mikel and other greats, and has acknowledged and continues to acknowledge his contributions to Chelsea. Even Mikel's worst critics recognize his great contributions to the Eagles' success at the Nations Cup. It is either Odegbami did not watch the Nations Cup or was blinded by hate to have missed Mikel's contributions. How many goals did Fabio Cannavaro score when he won the Balloon d'Or in the past?"
He believes that Odegbami is being economical with the truth in his comparison of Mikel with Toure.
"I am highly disappointed that someone of Odegbami's status, who ought to know that when comparing individual players, you have to look at how effective they are in the role their managers assigned to them, chooses to ignore this fact for reasons best known to him. Judging the two players from the angle of role they play for their respective clubs and countries, Toure was not better than Mikel in 2012/13.
"As a disciplined defensive midfielder, Mikel is probably number one in the world today. How can Odegbami claim that a player who has played over 300 games in the last eight seasons under seven different managers is inconsistent? I don't think Odegbami understands modern football and modern players. Mikel is a defensive midfielder who plays to his managers' instructions; he is not given a free role like Toure," Shittu was quick to point out.
He stressed further that Mikel is not given a box to box role, or an offensive role, so trying to compare his goals rate with that of an offensive player "is just plain mischief. Besides, how effective was Toure at Barcelona where he didn't have a free role, or the other clubs he had played before Barca?"
Attempts to get Odegbami to react to Shittu's comments were unsuccessful as calls to his Airtel mobile phone were not picked.