In what's increasingly looking like Mikel John Obi's final season at Chelsea, much of the recent stories surrounding the player and his playing time have revolved around quotes from his national team manager, Gernot Rohr.
"There is a reason why Mikel is not playing for Chelsea right now and that reason is because he played for Nigeria at the Olympics. He was punished for that."
"I cannot punish a player who loves his country and shows that he loves the Green jersey. I am not happy with what is happening to Mikel at his club because he is my captain."
"I spoke about this with Mikel and the club's technical director [Michael Emenalo]. Mikel is training very well and he plays games in training with the big players at Chelsea."
-Gernot Rohr; source: Mirror
The key line here is "he was punished for that," though it should be noted that other outlets, like the BBC did not carry that line when reporting on Rohr's press conference. Which then does change the meaning to Rohr talking strictly about keeping Mikel involved at the national team level despite his non-involvement at club level. Which makes much more sense than an unprompted attack on Chelsea and Conte.
Sure enough, earlier today, Mikel took to social media to clarify the situation.
I'd like to clarify that the recent media claims that I've been punished by Chelsea FC for participating at the Rio 2016 Olympics are completely inaccurate.
Unfortunately comments made by Gernot Rohr before yesterday's 3-1 win over Algeria were both mistranslated and taken out of context by the Nigerian media, as English isn't Mr Rohr's or much of the Nigerian media's first language.
To be absolutely clear, Mr Conte and Chelsea were always fully supportive of my captaincy of the Nigerian team in Rio.
The manager gave me his full blessing to participate at the Olympics, and even encouraged me to bring back the gold medal — something I spoke to the media about at the time: http://www.standard.co.uk/sport/sport-olympics/chelseas-mikel-john-obi-antonio-conte-told-me-to-bring-home-gold-from-rio-a3309851.html
It goes without saying there is nothing but absolute respect between myself, the Nigerian national team and Chelsea FC, something that was demonstrated by Mr Rohr's recent visit to Cobham.
My only focus now is on winning silverware with Chelsea and getting Nigeria to the 2018 World Cup, two challenges I can't wait to face in the coming months.
-Statement from Mikel John Obi; source: Twitter
Mikel has been nothing but professional in this, as he put it, brand new situation in his career. Whether he leaves in January, at the end of the season or at some point later, he will most likely do so in the same manner that he's conducted himself for most of his illustrious Chelsea career: quietly, effectively, and without too much fuss or the need for applause and attention.