24 January 2019
Nigerian international midfielder Mikel John Obi has joined Boro on a short-term deal.
Mikel rose to prominence in an 11-year stint with Chelsea, making nearly 400 appearances for The Blues and winning a host of honours including two Premier League titles and the Champions League.
After captaining his country in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the 31-year-old most recently plied his trade in the Far East with Tianjin TEDA. He returns to English football with Boro having been a free agent since the end of the Chinese Super League season in November.
Reports had linked Mikel with a host of European clubs including AS Roma and Wolfsburg as well as sides in the English top flight and the Championship, but the midfielder has opted to join The Teessiders in their bid for promotion.
Boro boss Tony Pulis was delighted to complete the signing of Mikel and he said: “I’m pleased to get him in. He is a man with a lot of experience and quality.
“He has a winning mentality and he wants to be here be a part of what we are looking to achieve.”
Mikel becomes Boro’s second addition of the January transfer window, following the arrival of Rajiv van La Parra on loan from Huddersfield earlier in the month. He will wear the number 2 shirt.
The Nigerian international was courted by clubs across Europe, but says his decision to return to England came after having conversations with the Boro boss about the sort of team he’d be joining.
“For me it’s looking at the project,” he said.
“I spoke to a few clubs and I also spoke to Tony [Pulis], had a good chat with him.
“He’s told me where he wants to go with it and it definitely fits with what I want to do.
“The club wants to get promoted so hopefully I’m here to help in any way I can.
“It’s a family club and this is what I want. I like stability and this is why I was at Chelsea for a very long time.”
A two-time Premier League and Champions League winner, Mikel developed a reputation with The Blues as a defensive midfielder, but has also enjoyed much success further up the pitch as captain of his country.
The player himself says that the team comes first.
“We have to put our heads together and help each other,” he said.
“If anyone knows me from my years at Chelsea, I always played for the team. The team comes first and that’s exactly what I’m going to do here.
“Here is going to be a challenge, but I love challenges.”
Versions of this report first appeared on the Middlesbrough FC website.