Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel has said that he will be speaking to other clubs before the January transfer window, with a move away from Chelsea seeming increasingly likely.
Mikel was a regular starter under interim boss Guus Hiddink in the second-half of last season but has yet to make an appearance for the Blues since new head coach Antonio Conte took over at Stamford Bridge. He made 33 appearances for Chelsea in the last campaign, having been with the West London club for eleven years so far.
The Nigerian’s contract is due to expire in the summer and he has taken the fact that Chelsea have allowed to run down as a sign that it’s time for him to start looking for other clubs. Mikel was left out of Chelsea’s squad for the EFL Cup match against Leicester City at The King Power Stadium last night. He said, “When you have a year left, in January you are allowed to talk to other clubs and sign a pre-contract or have an agreement so, yes, I will talk to other clubs because you never know what is going to happen”.
The 29-year-old has not ruled out a move to a rival Premier League club, but he is also open to other options including a lucrative move to the Far East. Former players from the English top-flight including Tim Cahill, Graziano Pelle and ex-Blues Ramires and Demba Ba have all made big-money moves to the Chinese Super League in recent months, as have other well-known players such as Hulk, Asamoah Ryan and Ezequiel Lavezzi.
Mikel is mostly concerned about making the right decision for his career. He said, “If it is going to be the Premier League there will be options. If it is China or some other places, we will see. One thing is for sure, I will make the best decision”.
The Nigerian midfielder signed for Chelsea in June of 2006 and has made 368 appearances in the first-team since then. He’s won two Premier League winners medals, four FA Cups, two League Cups, the Champions League and the Europa League with the West London side. He also won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013 and a Bronze medal at the Summer Olympics in 2016.
Mikel’s original transfer to Chelsea was surrounded by controversy. When the player turned 18 in 2005 Manchester United announced to the world that they had made a deal with Lyn to sign him, with the club’s official website confirming that the payer had signed a contract with them. The deal was rumoured to be worth £4 million and he was expected to arrive at Old Trafford at the start of 2006. Chelsea then announced that they had already made a deal with the player and his representatives – something that his club Lyn denied.
Mikel was then presented to the world as a Manchester United player at a press conference, holding up a shirt and announcing that he was delighted to join the North-West club. He then disappeared whilst watching a Lyn match in Norway and the United assistant manager claimed he had been ‘kidnapped’ by Chelsea. He reappeared nine days later and claimed that he had been pressured to join Manchester United without his agents present. United and Lyn both made complaints to FIFA but Chelsea eventually settled the matter without the need to wait for FIFA’s decision. They paid Manchester United £12 million and Lyn £4 million.
Now it appears as if his career with Chelsea, which began in such controversial circumstances, is going to come to a somewhat less dramatic conclusion. Having spent the majority of his senior career in West London Mikel will be disappointed to be leaving but feels his future is bright. He said, “I’ve been here for a long, long time. I’ve spent 11 years of my life in this football club, it is my home. This season is the last at the club if my contract ends. I am quite relaxed about it, the future looks good”.