The Nigeria midfielder’s comments—relayed to Goal while on international duty with the Super Eagles—shed light on Mourinho’s divisive approach to man-management and reveal a great deal about the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge under the troubled Portuguese coach.
Mikel was initially signed by Mourinho back in 2006, and remains the club’s second longest-serving player after captain John Terry.
The Nigerian’s status as one of Mourinho’s supposed trusted lieutenants make his comments even more remarkable.
“Even if you do things right he would always make sure he finds fault,” the 28-year-old told Goal.
“People change in any walk of life,” he continued, “maybe he decided he wanted to do better in a different way and he didn’t need me anymore.
“He didn’t have the belief that he had in me before, which is fine because every manager has the player that they have trust in.
“It is a tough business, football, so when a manager comes in he wants to have people he believes in. If he doesn’t believe in you he doesn’t play you. And I think it’s all about a manager giving a player confidence.
“I think confidence is everything,” the central midfielder concluded, “if a manager doesn’t believe in you, trust me there’s no way you can succeed.”
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Certainly, in Guus Hiddink—the interim coach who replaced Mourinho in December—Mikel has found a manager who trusts in him and who has given him the opportunity to demonstrate his class in the heart of the park.
The West African has been one of Chelsea’s better performers during the second half of the campaign, and while his performances have failed to bring silverware to Stamford Bridge or help the Pensioners claim an unlikely top-four position, Mikel has at least demonstrated that he can have a part to play at Chelsea moving forward.
The newly appointed Nigeria captain was in action for the Super Eagles as they drew 1-1 with Egypt in Kaduna last week, and will be charged with helping Samson Siasia’s side see off the Pharaohs in Alexandria in 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying later this week.