John Obi Mikel has bid farewell to Chelsea as he gets ready to join Chinese Super League side Tianjin TEDA.
The Nigerian international has been at Stamford Bridge since joining from Norwegian club Lyn Oslo in 2006, in a transfer which was complicated by his signing of a contract to join rivals Manchester United prior to agreeing a move to London.
Mikel has made 374 appearances for the Blues in the time since, and has helped them win two Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, and UEFA Europa League and, of course, the UEFA Champions League in 2012.
He has, though, not made a single appearance this season under new head coach Antonio Conte. And with his contract set to expire in the summer, the club have allowed him to make a lucrative switch to China on a free transfer this month.
“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,” Mikel said in a statement. “With this in mind, 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.
“To Mr Abramovich, the staff, coaches, physios, and managers I played under Chelsea, I want to say thank you. But my biggest thanks must go to the Blues fans. You brought me into the Chelsea family and were there with us every step of the way. Thanks to your support, on nights like in Munich, you made the impossible possible.”