Nigeria captain Mikel Obi says he is ready to quit Premier League giants Chelsea in January in search of first-team football.
The 29-year-old, who guided the Super Eagles to a 3-1 victory over Algeria’s Desert Foxes in their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier in Uyo on Saturday, admits he is no longer happy at Stamford Bridge.
And Mikel says he is not happy that Chelsea’s Italian manager Antonio Conte has overlooked him, despite working hard in training.
It has been suggested Conte decided to freeze the South Africa 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winner out of first-team contention because he opted to represent Nigeria at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, where the Under-23 team won bronze (Nigeria’s only medal in the competition).
But the Blues’ second longest-serving player behind captain John Terry says he has no regrets over his decision, saying he is ready to leave the team in January.
“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,” The Sun quoted the player, who scored Nigeria’s second goal against Algeria in Uyo, as saying.
“He (Conte) 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.”
Mikel added, “But, no, I would never swap my Olympic medal for a place back in the Chelsea team.
“One thing you have to do in life as a man is that when you make a decision, or a sacrifice, you have to deal with it.
“You have to stand by your decision. You have to live with it.
“I have not one single regret in going to the Olympics. And I will not trade my medal for anything.”
Meanwhile, Mikel has denied Conte decided to leave him out of his team because he went to the Olympics against his wish.
He said Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr was misquoted as saying he was being punished at Chelsea because he travelled to Rio.
“I’d like to clarify that the recent media claims I’ve been punished by Chelsea for participating at the Rio 2016 Olympics are completely inaccurate,”he said.