‘It was a blessing to play with Mikel and Ighalo’ – Everton star Iwobi

Everton and Nigeria winger Alex Iwobi has stated it was a blessing for him to play with Chelsea icon John Obi Mikel and Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo.

Mikel spent 14 years with the national team before his retirement from international duty in 2019 after captaining the West Africans to their eighth bronze medal at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

The 33-year-old excelled in the midfield role for both his club and country during his playing years, helping them to clinch a number of laurels.

Iwobi was privileged enough to play alongside Mikel for four years, and explained how he learnt to keep the ball away from opponents even when under pressure from the former Super Eagles captain.

“I have learnt a lot from Mikel because we play similar positions. Whenever I’m called I play behind the striker, that’s where he likes to play,” Iwobi said in an Instagram Live.

“In training, whilst watching him on the pitch, whilst I’m on the bench watching him, I’ve always learned, the way he’s physically capable to keep the ball in tight situations.

“Playing in African culture there’s a lot more physicality, there are a lot more strong duels, the way he’s able to use his body is something I have picked up and try to add to my game.”

Ighalo, meanwhile, is regarded as one of the greatest Super Eagles strikers, given his clinical finishing and technical ability.

Just before his retirement from international duty, the 30-year-old fired Nigeria to the 2019 Afcon finals, emerging as the highest goalscorer during the qualifiers.

The forward went on to clinch the Golden Boot award in the tournament with five goals, and helped Nigeria to finish third.

Iwobi, who has always spoken of his desire to add more goals and assists to his game, revealed he is learning to be more composed in front of goal just like the Red Devils striker.

“With Ighalo, the composure he has when he’s in the box, when he has the opportunity to score, I’m trying to add to my game,” he continued.

“It’s almost like when he’s clean through on goal, 90 percent of the time the ball is in the back of the net and not with a lot of power but with finesse and style to it.

“Hopefully, that’s something that not just me but the youngsters like Victor [Osimhen], it is something that we have to put a lot of respect for.

“Both of them talk to you, they try to help everyone, it was a blessing to play with both of them.”

While Mikel had 91 caps for the three-time African champions, Ighalo made 35 appearances for Nigeria and scored 16 goals before he quit the national team.

Iwobi, meanwhile, has played 40 times for the Super Eagles since making his international debut against the Democratic Republic of the Congo in October 2015.

The Arsenal academy graduate will hope to continue his development with the national team and Everton.

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