John Obi Mikel

Middlesbrough have done well by signing John Obi Mikel for free

Middlesbrough have made their second signing of the January transfer window, having acquired former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel on a free transfer. The club recently confirmed as much on their official website.

Boro had already dipped their toes into the winter transfer market to sign winger Rajiv van La Parra on loan from Premier League outfit Huddersfield Town. Now, they have secured the signature of Mikel, who was a free agent since last November after his contract with Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda expired.

The 31-year-old Nigerian burst on to the scene in the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship, where he won the Silver Ball as he helped the Super Eagles U20 side reach the finals. They were defeated by Argentina, led by Lionel Messi, who won the Golden Ball.

In the summer of 2006, Chelsea signed him from Norwegian outfit FK Lyn. Mikel spent more than ten years with the West London outfit, during which he amassed a whopping 372 appearances, scoring 6 goals and setting up 13 more.

The midfielder went on to win the Premier League twice with the club, in 2009-10 and in 2014-15, along with three FA Cups, the League Cup in 2007 and the Community Shield in 2009. On the continental level, Mikel played the full 120 minutes as Chelsea claimed a historic UEFA Champions League title in Munich in 2012, and was part of the UEFA Europa League winning side the following year.

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Having left Chelsea in January 2017 to join Tianjin Teda, where he made 31 appearances, in which he scored and assisted three goals apiece.

Middlesbrough have emerged as strong candidates to finish in the playoff position once again, following a solid first half of the season. Heading into match week 29, Tony Pulis’ side sit in the fifth position, six points below Norwich City who occupy the second automatic promotion slot.

The Teessiders are not short of numbers in the middle of the park. Pulis can call upon the likes of Adam Clayton, Jonny Howson, Lewis Wing, summer signing Paddy McNair, on-loan midfielder Muhamed Besic, along with seasoned campaigner Grant Leadbitter. However, the 33-year-old is set to leave for rivals Sunderland (h/t Sky Sports) in the coming days, opening up space in the squad.

Mikel may not become a regular starter for Boro straight away, but given his volume of experience, proven pedigree and the natural leadership abilities, the 31-year-old can prove to be an invaluable asset for the club.

The Nigerian midfielder has made 249 appearances in the Premier League and close to 60 in the Champions League and has won numerous titles in his time during England. That kind of experience and know-how can prove to be of great benefit for Middlesbrough as they chase promotion back to the Premier League.

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