Written by Adeola Ibrahim on November 2, 2023
Former Chelsea midfielder, Mikel Obi, has lifted the lid on why Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah failed to make the grade at Stamford Bridge,
Both players were at Chelsea but enjoyed fruitless spells in England before becoming the superstars that they are now at Manchester City and Liverpool respectively but their successes will always have those connected with Chelsea ruing ‘what could have been’ if they had remained at the club.
De Bruyne is currently the heartbeat of City’s midfield having won 13 major honours since his arrival in 2015 — including last season’s Treble.
His standards on the pitch are very high but according to Mikel, that wasn’t always the case when he was with the Blues — especially in training.
The former Nigerian captain told the Obi One Podcast that the Belgium midfielder was a ‘bad trainer’ during his 18 months spell at Stamford Bridge while also revealing that De Bruyne fought with team-mate Samuel Eto’o – with the latter annoyed at his low standards.
“I think Kevin De Bruyne, wasn’t the best trainer back then,” he told the Obi One Podcast.
“He was somebody that comes to training and probably because he wasn’t playing that much, always having his head down, always angry and sulking. He was like a kid who came to the playground and nobody wanted to play with him.
“I remember when Samuel Eto’o had a go at him and they had a massive fight on the training ground just because he (De Bruyne) wasn’t putting in the effort that Samuel Eto’o wanted so they had a massive row on the pitch.”
De Bruyne’s departure coincided with Salah’s arrival, but the Egyptian didn’t fare much better — playing fleetingly over his 18 months in the blue of Chelsea before leaving initially on loan to Fiorentina in February 2015.
And while Salah, who has won six major honours at Liverpool, didn’t enrage a team-mate to the extent that De Bruyne did – he did occur the wrath of then manager Jose Mourinho which reduced him to tears during half-time of a match.
Mikel said. “They were so unlucky that the boss, Mourinho, then didn’t take any prisoners,”
“If you weren’t doing your job, it didn’t matter who you were, he would have a go at you.
“Mourinho had a go at Salah at half-time once and he was in tears crying. We thought “OK, he’s going to let him back on the pitch” but then he destroyed the kid and then pulled him off. But that was just his mentality back then but would Mourinho do that now? I don’t think so.
“He’s become older and more mature and knows how to deal with younger players, and players in general, a lot more now.
“I think that’s just how he got the best out of us then and that’s how we were when we were successful because of how he wanted us to play, train and behave as players.”
Chelsea’s loss has been City and Liverpool’s gain, but Mikel credits both De Bruyne and Salah for working hard to reach their superstar status now.
“We didn’t expect them to be where they are today but credit to them, they’ve gone away and improved to become superstars,” he said.