John Obi Mikel had spent 11 years before Antonio Conte turned up and ostracised the Nigerian from the squad which ultimately led to the midfielder’s departure from Stamford Bridge
John Obi Mikel nearly came to blows with Antonio Conte during a furious office meeting that led to the midfielder walking out.
The 33-year-old will go down in history at Chelsea as one of their most underrated players after 11 years at the club.
Playing across a number of managers including Jose Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti, Mikel was an ever-present member of the squad.
During the club’s most successful era in their history, the Nigerian acted as defensive midfielder as the likes of Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Michael Essien ventured further forward.
But it came to a shuddering stop after Conte arrived in 2016.
With the Olympics going ahead, Mikel had been called up to the Nigeria squad and was desperate to win a medal for his country.
But the competition coincided with the start of the Premier League season and the new Italian manager told the then-29-year-old that he would not play under him if he left.
However, the Chelsea hierarchy gave Mikel their blessing to leave – but Conte stuck to his word and he never played for the Blues again, leaving for the Chinese Super League in January.
Mikel told the Athletic : “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 match days again.”
Tianjin TEDA was his destination after the Chelsea board scrapped his contract out of respect for his many years but Mikel and Conte would clash one more time before he left.
He added: “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.”