Of the 20 players with the most career Chelsea appearances, three remain active. César Azpilicueta (8th with 429), who has Dennis Wise in his sights in seventh all-time, is set to captain Chelsea next season of course. The other two are no longer with the club, but are still playing, though Branislav Ivanović (16th with 377) is currently a free agent, after West Brom let his contract expire.
On the other hand, Mikel John Obi (18th with 372) was set to stay with Stoke City for another season, but the extension he signed had a get-out clause if a higher-paying offer from overseas came along — Stoke, like many teams, have been hard hit by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. And wouldn’t you know it, at least one such offer did come along, which Mikel has now taken.
So just weeks after re-signing with Stoke, the contract has been cancelled by mutual consent, and Mikel will instead play for Kuwait SC in the Kuwait Premier League. Alongside Qadsia SC and current champions Al-Arabi, Kuwait SC are one of the three big powers of Kuwaiti club football.
“Although John triggered the second year of his contract, we always had an agreement in place whereby we would let him leave if a significant overseas opportunity came along.
“John is a fantastic professional and was a huge presence for us last season both on and off the field, particularly with the young players in our first-team squad. I really enjoyed working with him and would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his contribution and wish him every success for the future.”
-Michael O’Neill, manager; source: Stoke City FC
Mikel, still just 34 and recently appointed Youth Ambassador by the Nigerian Ministry of Sports, was a key player for Stoke last season, playing in almost every single game as the Potters finished midtable in the Championship. Hopefully he will indeed be well compensation for being away from his family, something he specifically said he didn’t want to do anymore — and also without a slight chance of a Stamford Bridge return in a Cup match.
Good luck, Mikel!