Nigeria have named Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel as one of the three allowed overage players in their Olympic squad.
Mikel, who will captain Nigeria in the tournament, will now miss the start of Chelsea’s Premier League season and has already left the Blues to join up with his national team-mates at a training camp in Atalanta.
The 29-year-old is the only Nigerian Premier League player who has been released by his club to compete in Rio.
Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, Watford’s Odion Ighalo and Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho have all been told to remain with their clubs for pre-season.
But after holding talks with new Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, Mikel has been granted permission to lead his country in Brazil, with the tournament beginning on August 3, two days before the opening ceremony.
And Mikel couldn’t hide his excitement at the prospect of captaining Nigeria in Rio, commenting on his Instagram page: ‘First part of Chelsea pre-season done. Off to Atlanta to join the Nigeria team for the Olympics 2016.’
Nigeria made history at the 1996 Games in Atlanta when it became the first African country to win a gold medal for football.