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Mikel: How Conte forced me out of Chelsea for representing Nigeria

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The ex-Super Eagles captain and former Chelsea player John Mikel Obi has disclosed how he was frozen out of Stamford Bridge by the former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte for deciding to represent Nigeria at the 2016 Olympics.

Mikel was called up for the tournament as one of the over-age players, having represented Nigeria on various levels: U17, U21, and the senior national team. Ignoring his boss’s call not to participate in the competition, the 33-year-old midfielder went on to win a bronze medal for his country.

While revealing his ordeal in an interview with the Athletic, the former Chelsea midfielder said the Italian gaffer denied him an opportunity to feature for Chelsea on his return from international duty, which forced him to leave for Chinese side Tianjin TEDA in 2017.

Mikel said: “This guy 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****** serious?!’ He knew I wanted out. I stood up and walked out of the room. You can’t disrespect a human being like that.”

Mikel spent 11 years at Stamford Bridge, where he won a number of trophies, including the Champions League, Europa League, Premier League, FA Cup trophies, and others.

Mikel is currently playing for a Championship club, Stoke City, after leaving a Turkish club over coronavirus fears last year.

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