Super Eagles skipper Mikel Obi has claimed Argentina star Lionel Messi “stole” the Golden Ball award from him at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup held in the Netherlands.
The Flying Eagles faced Argentina in the final but lost 2-1 no thanks to two penalties converted by Messi.
Going into the final, Mikel was tipped to be awarded the Golden Ball for his impressive performances.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s crucial Group D Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup clash against Messi-led Argentina side, Mikel in an interview withThe Guardian reflected how he missed out on the Most Valuable Player award.
“Yeah, Messi stole the Golden Ball off me,” Mikel said.“Before the game people said that I was going to win the Golden Ball for being the player of the tournament.
“But then Messi scored twice, both of them penalties, Argentina won 2-1 and I got the Silver Ball. Messi has kept on stealing awards from me!”
Mikel recalled how the Super Eagles were able to beat Argentina 4-2 in last year’s friendly without Messi, positing the South Americans always struggle without their talisman.
“A certain human being wasn’t playing (in last year’s friendly),” Mikel says. “Actually, is he even a human being? Messi is Messi. He decides games and the last time we met he scored two against us at the Brazil World Cup.
“Without him, they are definitely less of a team. We can’t put all our attention on Messi but he is the man that we need to stop. Do we have to put somebody to mark him? Maybe yes, maybe no because when you do that you are playing with less balance.”
The Tianjin Teda midfielder spoke about playing in different midfield positions during his time at Chelsea and for the Super Eagles.
“I was playing as a No 10 before I went to Chelsea but [José] Mourinho converted me to a holding player,” Mikel told The Guardian. “I enjoy it. When I was at Chelsea and there was a national team break, I’d go there and I’d enjoy it. I’d have this one or two weeks of freedom – to express myself and play the way I want. But at Chelsea, I did a job.”
And on the Super Eagles being drawn against Argentina again at the World Cup, Mikel said:
“We knew we would get them. I said to a friend of mine: ‘Trust me, Argentina are going to be in the same group as us.’ It’s crazy. I don’t know why but it keeps happening.”