Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel is seemingly set to leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the season after Antonio Conte ruled out a January exit.
The Nigerian international has yet to feature for Chelsea so far this season, and is set to see his contract expire next summer.
With no contract talks scheduled, it had been assumed that he would be available in a cut-price deal in January if the offer was right, but Conte has insisted that the midfield stalwart will remain with the squad until June.
“The situation with Obi Mikel is simple: he’s in the squad. He stays with us,” he told the media on Friday, as reported by The Sun.
“We know that, at the end of the season, probably his contract will expire. But I don’t know what happens now. He’s a player who is part of this squad and every single game I take my decision about him.”
The 29-year-old has been with Chelsea since 2006, but he has been out of the side for the longest period of time yet this season with the likes of Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante ahead of him in the pecking order.
Cesc Fabregas and Nathaniel Chalobah also sit above him and have had more chances this season, and so while Conte rules out the chances of a January exit, it still looks as though there is little chance of Mikel remaining in west London beyond this year.
An inability to fit into the Italian’s preferred 3-4-3 system is arguably the biggest factor in that, and so along with some other familiar faces, a Chelsea stalwart could be on his way out next summer.