Please Wait . . .
Mikel John Obi has spoken out about the bust-up with manager Antonio Conte which ended his career at Chelsea.
Conte had just arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2016 when he advised the midfielder that he would not be part of his plans if he decided to represent Nigeria at the Olympics.
Mikel would go to the Rio Olympics, helping Nigeria win a bronze medal and in the process, permanently damaging his relationship with the Italian.
“I had been called up by my national team to play and it was a dream,” Mikel told The Athletic. “It’s a dream for anyone to go to the Olympics. Yes, as players we want to win the Champions League and the World Cup, but the Olympics is a massive tournament."
“This guy [Conte] who has just walked in the door for five minutes is telling me I had to choose.
"He was saying, ‘If you do that, you won’t be a part of this team’. I spoke to the club and told them that I wanted to go. The club respected me because of what I had done for them and how long I’d been there.
"So off I went and I felt punished for that. I came back and I didn’t make the squad. I was never in the squad list on matchdays again.
“The funny thing is, just before the January window was going to start, he came up to me and said ‘I want a meeting with you’. This was after making me train on my own for months, treating a player who had been at Chelsea for a long time like this!
“When he tried to meet with me he was like, ‘Let’s try and make up, I will need you in the team, let’s squash this, blah, blah, blah!’. I was like, ‘Are you joking?! Are you f*cking serious?!’ He knew I wanted out. I stood up and walked out of the room. You can’t disrespect a human being like that.
“I couldn’t wait for the window to open to get out. I was talking to the hierarchy and explaining that I would definitely have to go. They agreed, they understood.”
Mikel had been at Chelsea for 11 years by the time Conte arrived but within months, he was off to China on a free transfer toTianjin Teda.
The midfielder spent two seasons with the club before returning to England with Middlesbrough. He would then move to Turkish outfitTrabzonspor in 2019.
Mikel would return to England again ahead of the current season, signing a one-year deal with Stoke City in August 2020.
Mikel, now 33, has been a key figure with the Potters this season, starting 28 games in the Championship.