It’s been an odd season for Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi, who spent the first part of preseason with the squad before joining the Nigerian national team as one of two overage players at the Rio Olympics. Captain Mikel brought home a bronze medal from the tournament; but in doing so, he missed the rest of Chelsea’s pre-season preparations and the first few weeks of the season as well.
Two months later, Mikel still has yet to make an appearance for the club; he’s yet to be even selected for a bench appearance! While that’s completely understandable given the circumstances and the stellar form of both Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante (and Nathaniel Chalobah and, to a lesser extent, Oscar) Mikel’s national team manager believes the Nigeria captain is being punished for choosing his country over the club.
"He is being punished for deciding to go to the Olympics for Nigeria. He is training well and doing well for us. I cannot punish him for deciding to make a sacrifice for Nigeria."
-Gernot Rohr, Nigeria manager; source: ESPN FC
Wonder how Rohr feels about the reports that Chelsea won't be offering Mikel a new deal once his current contract, set to end in June, expires.
As far as Mikel himself, it would appear that the Chelsea veteran has made his peace with it already.
"We will wait and see what happens in January. For the first time in my career, this is happening to me and I have to stand up and deal with it. It is what it is but I'm training hard every day and I always wish the team the best and I am happy we are doing well."
"I've been at Chelsea a long time. Managers come and go, players come and go. I've been at Chelsea a long time and these things happen in football. So we will have to make that decision when January comes."
-John Obi Mikel; source: ESPN FC
Mikel’s decade-long history at Chelsea is looking ever more likely to be coming to an end this summer, or perhaps even as soon as January. At just 29, he’s got plenty left to give to another team. Hopefully we give the legend a proper send-off.