John Obi Mikel of Chelsea and Nigeria has not featured for Chelsea in any competitive game this season, and that includes the EPL and the EFL Cup. This development has raised a question mark over his future at the club, with speculations linking him with a move away from Stamford Bridge soon. There have been lots of reactions to the present predicament of the Nigerian international, and the latest person to comment on his situation at Chelsea is his national team coach, Gernot Rohr. In a press conference before Nigeria’s match against Algeria, the coach implied that the only reason why Mikel has featured less for Chelsea under Conte this season despite his fine displays last season is simply because he’s being punished by his club manager, Antonio Conte. According to Gernot Rohr, Mikel is being punished for his involvement in Nigeria’s participation at the just concluded Olympics. Apparently, Conte didn’t want Mikel to get involved in the Olympics, but against his wish, Mikel did.
It’s not certain whether there’s any truth in that allegation, but you’ll recall that this isn’t the first time Conte is being accused of trying to stop players from playing for their national team. Not too long ago, the Nigerian football Federation suggested that Conte had prevented Moses from joining up with his national team mates under the premise that he was sick, even though, he had featured for Chelsea the weekend before then, and showed no signs of injury. In fact, there was no official word regarding Moses’ injury on Chelsea’s website; Conte only told them so. This incident happened during the last international break. Moses didn’t show up for Nigeria then, and the Nigerian FA suggested it was out of fear of being dropped from the team.
Like I said before now, it’s difficult to say whether or not there’s any truth to those allegations, as none of the players involved have come out to confirm them (not like they would, anyway. At least, not while they’re at Chelsea). However, I have to say that I hope that that’s all they are, though— mere allegations, as it’d be very bad if they were true. I understand that players are important to clubs, because they invest so much in these players, but then, they come from a country, and owe it to their countries to appear for them whenever they are called upon. It’s wrong for a coach to try to stop any player from playing for his country under any circumstance. Having said that, I want to believe that it’s all heresy, and nothing more. Conte has not come out to say that Mikel isn’t in his plans, so there yet may be hope for the Nigerian, but even if he did, there’s nothing much to it, it’s normal, he just needs look elsewhere, and move on. He’s a good player, and can still attract top clubs’ interest. That is my take on the matter. Please, do drop yours too. We’d like to know.