Mikel John Obi has released a statment insisting he does not think he is being punished by Chelsea for going to the Olympics.
Mikel John Obi – who recently officially changed his name from John Obi Mikel – has not played under Chelsea boss Antonio Conte this season.
Mikel captained Nigeria to bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the summer, meaning he missed Conte’s first few months at Stamford Bridge.
But following comments made by Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr claiming Conte is “punishing” Mikel for going to the Olympics, the 29-year-old today released a statement. Read what Mikel wrote in his statement on next page.
“I’d like to clarify that the recent media claims I’ve been punished by Chelsea FC for participating at the Rio 2016 Olympics are completely inaccurate.
“Unfortunately comments made by Gernot Rohr before yesterday’s 3-1 win over Algeria were both mistranslated and taken out of context by the Nigerian media, as English isn’t Mr Rohr’s or much of the Nigerian media’s first language.
“To be absolutely clear, Mr Conte and Chelsea were always fully supportive of my captaincy of the Nigerian team at Rio.
“The manager gave me his full blessing to participate at the Olympics, and even encouraged me to bring back the gold medal – something I spoke to the media about at the time.
“It goes without saying there is nothing but absolute respect between myself, the Nigerian national team and Chelsea FC, something that was demonstrated by Mr Rohr’s recent visit to Cobham.
“My only focus now is on winning more silverware with Chelsea and getting Nigeria to the 2018 World Cup, two challenges I can’t wait to face in the coming months.”
However, Mikel’s long-term future at Chelsea appears bleak with his contract due to expire next summer.
And the Nigerian’s Twitter statement has come at a strange time, given he was more bullish about Antonio Conte in a interview published today.
“I have never been a guy who makes excuses in life and never shy away from responsibilities,” he told The Sun.
“Yes, maybe people will say the new manager was upset I left and went to the Olympics, that I didn’t have a pre-season with the team.
“He probably thinks I don’t care about the team, things like that.
“But I don’t want to use those excuses. I have to keep training hard and make sure I change the manager’s mind. If not, then we’ll see what happens in January.”
On his return to Chelsea from the Olympics, Mikel added: “There was no communication. The club didn’t tell me to leave or give me the green light to go — and then the transfer window ended.
“I only have one year left on my contract. But I don’t want to leave just like that. I have been here for 11 years now. It’s good to leave when you finish your contract and you know your business is done.”