Former Super Eagles star John Obi Mikel has revealed how he was disrespected by former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte before leaving for the Chinese Super League.
Mikel player across a number of managers including Jose Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti, and was an ever-present member of the squad.
During the club’s most successful era in their history, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League and Europa, Mikel featured in the defensive midfield position as the likes of Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Michael Essien ventured further forward.
But everything came to halt after Conte arrived in 2016.
With the Rio Olympics going ahead, Mikel had been called up to the U-23 Eagles squad headed by Samson Siasia.
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 Tianjin Teda in January.
Recalling what transpired between him and Conte Mikel told the Athletic : “This guy (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 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.”