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MIKEL OBI CLOSE TO MIDDLESBROUGH SWITCH

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Contrary to earlier speculations that English Championship side, Middlesbrough had tuned down Nigeria’s Mikel Obi, the midfielder has reportedly returned to the North East for talks on Monday

According to UK publication, Teesside Live, Middlesbrough remain interested in signing John Obi Mikel this month, with the midfielder having returned to the North East for a fresh round of talks with club chiefs.

The 31-year-old held initial talks with Boro last week and is understood to have returned for further discussions on Monday, with a deal very much a possibility.

The Nigerian wants a fresh challenge in a competitive division after leaving Chinese side Tianjin Teda by mutual consent earlier this month.

Crystal Palace are said to have shown an interest in the former Chelsea man but Roy Hodgson can’t guarantee Mikel the regular first team football he craves.

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Tony Pulis isn’t short of central midfielders but believes the physical, imposing and experienced Mikel can further strengthen the department. Mikel has played as both a holding midfielder and in a more advanced No.10 role for both club and country in the past.

He left Chelsea for Tianjin Teda two years ago but didn’t settle in China and still believes he’s got plenty to offer in a challenging and competitive division, while accepting English clubs won’t be able to offer anywhere near the lucrative salary he was earning in Asia.

Mikel hasn’t played for Nigeria since last summer’s World Cup but is being urged to return to the national scene ahead of this summer’s African Cup of Nations.

Former Nigerian coach Samson Siasia is today quoted as saying: “One thing we should know is that Mikel has not played for a while now, and he is trying to move to another club. I believe he wants to secure his job situation before he will worry about the Super Eagles.”

Mikel has vast experience of the English game, having played more than 350 games for Chelsea during his 11-year stay at Stamford Bridge. He has quite the CV, having won two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, the League Cup, Champions League and Europa League.

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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