John Mikel Obi, the ex-captain of the Nigerian national team, has disclosed the reason behind his departure from Chelsea, a renowned English Premier League club, in 2017.
According to him, the catalyst for his decision came after Antonio Conte took charge as Chelsea manager.
Mikel Obi, along with his compatriot Victor Moses, received an invitation to represent Nigeria at the Olympics.
However, Conte informed them that leaving for the tournament would result in their exclusion from his team.
Mikel Obi managed to convince Moses to remain at Chelsea while he embarked on the Olympic journey for Nigeria.
When he returned, Conte promptly relegated him to the reserve team.
Speaking in the latest episode of the Vibe with Five podcast, Mikel said, “Conte was the reason why I left [Chelsea]. Once he came in, he was like, ‘You’re not playing anymore.’ Then I left. Obviously, when I saw Conte coming into the club, I was like, ‘My time here is done.’
“The only reason is when he came in, me and Victor Moses and we got invited to the [Nigerian] national team for the Olympics. So, I had a conversation with the club and he [Conte] said, ‘If you go, you’re not playing anymore for the club. Because I’m a new manager, we need to think about the club.’
“And I was like, ‘You know what? I’ve been invited to represent the country at the Olympics.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, but if you go just know that your time here is done.’
“So, I talked to Victor to stay back. I said, ‘I’ve been here a long time. I’ve won everything that I needed to win. You’re just coming, so you should stay.’ And he accepted. So, Victor stayed and I went. After the tournament when I came back, that was it. He [Conte] never spoke to me. He sent me to the reserve team. I was training with the reserves. Then I started training alone for a while. For like six months I did this.”