Mikel Obi confirms that Antonio Conte benched him at Chelsea because he represented Nigeria at the Olympics
Mikel reveals he walked out of a meeting with Conte because of this issue.
Former Super Eagles captain Mikel Obi has revealed that his Italian coach Antonio Conte punished him at Chelsea for representing Nigeria at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Mikel captained Nigeria’s U23 side that won the Bronze medal of the Olympics’ football event.
But when he returned to Chelsea, the midfielder was ostracised by Conte and never played for the club again before leaving in the next transfer window.
The veteran midfielder revealed that Conte told him that he wouldn’t be part of the team if he chose to represent Nigeria at the Olympics.
“This guy 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’,” Mikel told The Athletic.
“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 matchdays again.”
After his maltreatment, Mikel said the Italian manager called a meeting with him in an attempt to reinstate him back to the team but he walked out on him and left for China shortly after.
“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’, Mikel further said.
“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.”
John Obi Mikel won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2012
Chelsea spent 10 and a half years at Chelsea and won several top titles, including two Premier League, a Champions League, Europa League and three FA Cup titles.
Conte managed Chelsea for just two seasons and won the Premier League in his first and the FA Cup in his second.
The reports have always been there, although Mikel first chose to ignore it. Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr first revealed it in 2016 when he said, “there is a reason why Mikel is not playing for Chelsea right now and that reason is that he played for Nigeria at the Olympics.”
Mikel, who was still at Chelsea at that time, quickly released a statement to deny Rohr’s comment.
A year later, his friend Emmanuel Sarki, a former Chelsea player, also revealed that the midfielder was dropped from the Chelsea squad because he chose to go to the Olympics.
“I was told how Conte treated Mikel after his decision to represent Nigeria at the Rio 2016 Olympics,” Sarki told Own Goal Nigeria in 2017.
At a Super Eagles press conference around after Sarki’s comment, Mikel refused to confirm or deny Sarki’s allegation.
In June 2019, Mikel finally admitted that he was untreated unfairly because of the Olympics.
“I went, I came back, the managers never spoke to me again, didn’t put me in the team, then I said ‘okay fine’ and I left,” Mikel said in a Youtube interview on the Super Eagles.
Mikel currently plays for English Championship side Stoke City.