Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fast-Maturing Mikel Is Adding a New Flavour to Chelsea's Vintage Midfield Line

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fast-Maturing Mikel Is Adding a New Flavour to Chelsea's Vintage Midfield Line

Article excerpt

JOHN OBI MIKEL is on course to enjoy one of football's greatest coming of a ge

parties. His manager Jose Mourinho may still refer to him as a boy but his Chelsea team-mates believe that recent performances prove he is already becoming a man.

His rapid rise could not have been more timely and even the abstemious head coach would approve of the potential sporting celebrations on the horizon.

As Mikel enjoys the final 10 days of his teenage years his is 20 on 22 April Chelsea are keeping their dream of the quadruple very much alive and he is taking an increasingly central role in proceedings.

His performance as the holding midfielder at Valencia's Mestalla on Tuesday was a personal turning point, as Jose Mourinho's side pulled off an historic win to progress to the Champions League semi-finals.

The 19-year-old's showing in the home leg was impressive but his calm, assured display under intense pressure in in Spain suggested no stage will faze him.

Valencia's players complained afterwards they just could not get the ball in the second half so Blackburn in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final shouldn't be relying on knocking Mikel out of his stride if Mourinho prefers him to Claude Makelele again.

John Terry said: "He has been different class. He is growing into a man now.

"It is not a case of him coming in and us thinking of him as a young player, he has to come in like he did at Valencia and he is doing it. All credit to him."

Like Makelele, the acknowledged master of the role, Mikel is stingy in possession. What he offers on top of the Frenchman's destruction and short passing is a level of athleticism and attacking instinct which makes him a very different attacking threat.

Lampard said: "The stages like Valencia are the ones which matter and he did very well. He is very mature

for a young player. People at the start of the season didn't see enough of him to see what he can do but now he is getting a chance.

"He is very comfortableon the ball and plays with the maturity of a much older pro. He has been great for us, gives us a great physical presence and is never rushed in possession. …

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