Born: April 22, 1987 in Jos, Nigeria

Position: Midfielder

Nickname: Born John Michael Nchekwube Obinna, he is commonly known as John Obi Mikel. Obi is a nickname for Obinna, which means "Father's heart" in the Igbo language.

Clubs played for: After spending the formative years of his career with Plateau United in his native Nigeria and South African outfit Ajax Cape Town, Mikel made the move to Europe in 2005 when he signed with Lyon Oslo in Norway. It proved to be just a brief stopover - the following year he was starring with Chelsea in the English Premier League.

International career: Mikel first made headlines at the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Finland. In 2005, he played for Nigeria at the FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands (they lost to Argentina in the final) before graduating to the Nigerian senior national team later than same year in a friendly against Libya.

Why is he so special? Mikel's size (six-feet-two-inches) and ball handling abilities have made him a top-tier defensive midfielder, reminiscent of former Chelsea teammate Claude Makelele.

His most famous moment: Setting up one goal and scoring another in Nigeria's 2-0 win over Zimbabwe at the 2006 African Cup of Nations.

He said it: "We never gave up [on qualifying for the 2010 World Cup] even though it appeared we had lost it when we drew against Tunisia in Abuja. We were determined to make Nigerians happy by being part of the World Cup."

What they're saying about him: "I have a lot of trust in Mikel, I think he can be the playmaker of this team. He is a young player, but has great quality, both technical and tactical. - Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea manager

Here's an interesting fact: Mikel was the subject of a major transfer controversy when both Manchester United and Chelsea claimed they signed him from Lyon Oslo. He eventually signed with the Blues after Chelsea reached a financial settlement with Oslo and Manchester United.