John Obi Mikel recalled how a decision to represent Nigeria at the 2016 Olympics led to Antonio Conte ending his Chelsea career.
Mikel, who featured at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, spent 11 years at Chelsea in the Premier League. He left in January 2017 on a free transfer to Chinese club Tianjin TEDA.
But life in East Asia clearly didn’t suit Mikel as his family remained in their London home. Therefore, he sealed a move to Championship side Middlesbrough last summer before leaving this month.
And now the Nigeria captain has opened up on how Conte froze him out of the Chelsea squad after leading the Super Eagles to bronze in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“For me, it was a decision I had to take because when the opportunity came up to either go to Rio or play for Chelsea,” Mikel told the NFF media.
“I decided that Victor Moses, who was the younger and hasn’t played yet for the club, should stay back while I go to the Olympics.
“Victor stayed back and I went but when I got back the manager never spoke to me again and did not even put me in the team, so I had to leave the club.
“For me, my commitment to play for the national team will never change until I stop playing.”
Mikel managed six goals and 13 assists in 372 appearances for Chelsea. The midfielder won two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, an EFL Cup, Community Shield, Champions League and the Europa League.
The 32-year-old’s future will likely be put on hold as he prepares for Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations campaign in Egypt.
Gernot Rohr’s side will meet Senegal on Sunday in Dakar for their final pre-tournament friendly before taking on Burundi in their Group B opener on June 22.