Nigeria national team captain John Obi Mikel has finally revealed his destination after it was made clear that he would be leaving Chelsea during the current January transfer window.
The 29-year-old is making a move to Chinese Super League club Tianjin TEDA, where he will earn £140,000 a week, according to local media reports. Chelsea released him on a free transfer, cancelling the final six months of his contract to facilitate the move.
He took to Twitter to communicate the development to his fans, writing an open letter explaining his decision.
‘As you will know, I haven’t featured as much this season as I would have liked, and at 29 I still have many years in the game ahead of me. With this in mind, I feel now is the time to seek a new challenge,’ the midfielder wrote.
‘I’m delighted to be joining Tianjin TEDA FC in China, at a time that the Chinese Super League is really taking off, and I look forward to helping Tianjin TEDA FC continue to grow both on and off the pitch in the next few years,’ he added.
Over the past 10 years Mikel has been an important member of the team at Stamford Bridge, making over 370 appearances and winning 11 cup and league titles with the Blues.
Since the arrival of coach Antonio Conte at the beginning of the season, Mikel has not featured in the first team, and his severe lack of playing time has forced him to look for a move away from Chelsea.
Offers from Turkey, France, Spain and Italy were communicated to the Super Eagles man through his agent, but the veteran midfielder eventually decided to take the opportunity that came from China.
In the letter he thanked his former club and what he referred to as the ‘Chelsea family’, adding that he was honoured to have played for the London side.
In transferring to Tianjin TEDA, Mikel followed in the footsteps of former teammate Oscar, who recently completed a move to Shanghai SIPG. The move away from Chelsea is important for Mikel, as his Super Eagles captaincy and place within the national team would be threatened without sufficient game time and fitness.
A move to China may not be viewed as the best option as far as remaining in contention for future Nigeria matches is concerned, which would have been better secured through a move to Spain or France.
It will now be up to Mikel to show his quality and ability at his new Chinese club, in order to convince Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr about his selection by proving his worth on the pitch.