Mikel left in Conte’s first season in charge at Stamford Bridge as manager, joining Chinese club Tianjin on a free transfer in the January transfer window after being denied a good playing time, by the then manager in the first half of the season in Chelsea.
Poor relations if I’m asked, according to Mikel, he was about to link up with Nigeria’s Olympics squad in Rio but Conte didn’t give a clear indication about it.
Conte, who is now coaches Inter Milan, wasn’t okay with him heading to the Olympic Games but it would disrupt Chelsea’s pre-season and he told the midfielder in no uncertain terms that he would not feature in his squad if he travelled to Brazil.
Mikel participated in the competition and won a bronze medal with his country side and despite a late attempt from Conte to fix their relationship, it caused a permanent damage.
I had been called up by my national team to play and it was a dream,’ the Stoke City midfielder. ‘It’s a dream for anyone to go to the Olympics. Yes, as players we want to win the Champions League and the World Cup, but the Olympics is a massive tournament for anyone.
Conte 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 matchdays again.
The funny thing is, just before the January window was going to start, he came up to me and said “I want to have a meeting with you”. This was after I trained on my own for months and a treating a player who had been at Chelsea for a while so mean like this! ‘When he tried to meet with me he was like, “Let’s try and make up, I will need you on the team, let’s squash this, blah, blah, blah!”. I was like, “Are you joking?! Are you f***ing serious? With this or not?
He knew I wanted out. I stood up and walked out of the room. You can’t disrespect a human being like that.
I couldn’t wait for the window to open to get out. I was talking to the hierarchy and explaining that I would definitely have to go. They agreed, they understood.