John Obi Mikel will become the latest high-profile player to leave Chelsea for China after confirming he will join Tianjin TEDA during the January transfer window. The 29-year-old had been in talks with Inter Milan, Valencia and Marseille but instead will join Brazilian Oscar in swapping west London for the Chinese Super League.
The Evening Standard understands the Nigeria international will earn £140,000-a-week ($174,000), following in the footsteps of the likes of Axel Witsel and Carlos Tevez in accepting a big-money offer from one of football's fastest emerging leagues. Mikel has not featured under Antonio Conte this season, having not played for the Blues since May 2016.
Confirmation of the exit brings an end to Mikel's spell at Stamford Bridge where he made 374 appearances and won 11 major honours. Across more than a decade at Chelsea he won the Premier League title twice, the FA Cup four times, two League Cups, the Champions League and the Europa League. Meanwhile, at the Olympic Games in Rio he claimed a bronze medal with the Nigeria national team.
"To play for Chelsea, to become part of the Chelsea family, to work with some of the best managers and players in the world, has truly been an honour," Mikel wrote on his Twitter page upon confirming the move. "Every achievement I have been part of in my time at Chelsea holds a special memory.
"None of this would have been possible without he wider club's support. To Mr Abramovich, the club's staff, coaches, physios, 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. Thanks to your support, you made the impossible possible."
Mikel's move to China comes amid a period of spending which has seen clubs smash spending records. Oscar's move to Shanghai SIPG was worth £52m, while Tevez's switch to Shanghai Shenhua, worth £615,000-a-week, made him the world's best paid player. The Chinese government has since ordered a clampdown on the spending spree and urged clubs to show due diligence when offer players contracts.