John Obi Mikel to leave Chelsea for Chinese club Tianjin TEDA
Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel has confirmed he is joining Chinese Super League club Tianjin TEDA after 10 years at Stamford Bridge.
Mikel, 29, signed for Chelsea from Norwegian club Lyn in 2006 despite initially agreeing to join Manchester United and the Nigeria international made 374 appearances for the West London club.
However, he has not been included in a single matchday squad for a competitive game since Antonio Conte took charge in the summer and announced on Twitter that he would be moving to China.
A letter to my Chelsea family. ��⚪️ pic.twitter.com/FhcUyq3iaV- Mikel John Obi (@mikel_john_obi) January 6, 2017
Mikel, whose contract was due to expire in the summer, had also held talks with La Liga club Valencia in recent weeks but opted in favour of the Chinese Super League.
He wrote: "I feel now is the time to seek a new challenge. 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."
Mikel used his Twitter message to say goodbye to the Chelsea fans and thank the club, where he won 11 trophies, including two Premier League titles, the 2012 Champions League and the 2013 Europa League.
Reflecting on his successes, he said: "None of this would have been possible without the wider club's support. To [Chelsea owner Roman] Abramovich, the club's staff, coaches, physio, and to the managers I played under at Chelsea, I want to say thank you.
"But my biggest thanks must go to the Blues fans. You brought me into the Chelsea family, you sung my name, and were there with us every step of the way."
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte praised Mikel at his news conference later on Friday, saying: "It's important to say thanks to Obi, for this period that he worked with me.
"He showed always a great attitude, great behaviour. I wish for him and his family the best. Obi played many years with this club and he won a lot with this club.
"I think he was a really important player, but I think that there are moments that you want to change, you want to find a new experience. For this reason I wish for him the best."
Mikel, who featured for Nigeria at the Rio Olympics in August and in World Cup qualifiers in October and November, becomes the latest big name to move to China.
Mikel's former Chelsea teammate Oscar joined Shanghai SIPG, while Carlos Tevez moved to Shanghai Shenhua and Axel Witsel headed to Tianjin Quanjian.
This week, the Chinese government called for restraint in a bid to cool the inflated fees and salaries being offered by Chinese Super League clubs just days after the country's transfer window opened.
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