Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte has been accused of ‘disrespecting’ one of his former midfielders while at Chelsea.
Former Nigeria captain John Mikel Obi spent 11 seasons playing for the Premier League side between 2006 and 2017, winning multiple honours which included the UEFA Champions League in 2012. Conte guided Chelsea to the title in the 2016-17 season, but the Nigeria international has revealed he fell completely out of favour after agreeing to represent his country at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. In an interview with The Athletic, Mikel recalled: “I had been called up by my national team to play and it was a dream. “It’s a dream for anyone to go to the Olympics; yes, as players we want to win the Champions League and the World Cup, but the Olympics is a massive tournament. “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.’ “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, and I was never in the squad list on match days again.” “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.’ “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***ing serious?!’ “He knew I wanted out. “I stood up and walked out of the room. “You can’t disrespect a human being like that. “I couldn’t wait for the window to open to get out. “I was talking to the hierarchy and explaining that I would definitely have to go. “And they agreed, they understood.” Mikel left Chelsea in January 2017 and joined Chinese Super League side Tianjin TEDA on a free transfer. The now 33-year-old, who plays for Stoke City in the Championship as of last summer, feels Conte always had it in for him from the moment Chelsea appointed the former Juventus and Italy boss. “From the very first day, he did not like me for some reason. “After everything I had done… yes, I wasn’t a Didier Drogba scoring goals and this and that, but I gave loyalty. “I helped the club, I helped win trophies. “I played in most of the finals: UEFA Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup. “I was a big part of the team so to be treated like that by a manager who had been there for a few minutes was very disappointing. “It was nothing to do with the hierarchy, I had a good relationship with them. “They treated me fairly until the end.” Conte won the FA Cup at his second season in Chelsea before he was sacked in acrimonious circumstances in 2019, paving the way for him to take over at Inter Milan.