Long-serving Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi has revealed he will hold talks with interested suitors as the clock ticks down towards the end of his contract. The 29-year-old, who last month officially changed his name after an original mistake made at the Fifa U17 World Championships in 2003, has won a host of silverware since his controversial transfer from Lyn a decade ago, but faces the prospect of being without a club when his current deal expires next summer.
"I have one year left [on my contract]," he recently told Goal. "When you have a year left as a football player, you have to start planning and start thinking about what's going to happen at the end of the season. Yes, there are going to be rumours, yes, there are going to be conversations between clubs.
"When you have a year left, in January, you are allowed to talk to other clubs and sign a pre-contract or have an agreement so, yes, I will talk to other clubs because you never know what is going to happen."
Mikel further stated that he is open to a "new conversation, a negotiation" with Chelsea over a potential extension, but will remain relaxed if no new offer is forthcoming. In the likely event he does leave Stamford Bridge, he says he intends to do what is best for his family and mentions China as one possible destination.
The Nigerian international, generally considered as a perennial back-up at club level, has featured 368 times in English football over a 10-year period and enjoyed something of a renaissance during Guus Hiddink's second term as interim boss. He made 33 appearances in total during a disastrous season for Chelsea and such a brief return to prominence appeared to invite attention from a host of clubs in both Europe and Asia.
Despite that interest, however, Mikel eventually elected to stay at Stamford Bridge and fight for his place under new manager Antonio Conte. The player's representative even claimed in March that his client had been approached over a contract renewal but that he had decided to postpone a decision until the summer amid interest from three clubs in the Chinese Super League.
Mikel, who has been pushed further down the pecking order by the arrival of the hugely impressive N'Golo Kante, has yet to be named in a single matchday squad by Conte so far this term after a busy summer in which he captained Nigeria at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games as one of Samson Siasia's older players players. The Dream Team VI beat Honduras 3-2 to win bronze after a turbulent campaign that saw them arrive in Brazil just hours before their opening nine-goal thriller against Japan.