Valencia held festive talks with Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi regarding a possible January transfer to La Liga, according to the Spanish club's sporting director. The 29-year-old midfielder, whose current contract expires at the end of June, is widely expected to end his decade-long, 376-game stint at Stamford Bridge this month having yet to be included in a single matchday squad for any competition under Antonio Conte in 2016-17.
"In the case of Obi Mikel, with Chelsea's permission, I met with him in London on Christmas day," Jesus Garcia Pitarch was quoted as saying by Superdeporte. "I informed him of the option [of joining Valencia]. He said he would think about it."
With the prospect of another Chelsea deal appearing extremely unlikely, Mikel's agent, John Shittu, told The Sun last month that his client, previously a target for Inter Milan, was attracting attention from a host of unnamed Italian clubs.
He also revealed that potential suitors from the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and China all "know the value of the player and requested information about him".
A move to the mega-rich Chinese Super League has also been mooted, with former Blues teammate Oscar having now completed his lucrative £60m ($73.7m) switch to Shanghai SIPG. Marseille were thought to be the leading the chase for Mikel's signature after Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr claimed that discussions between the respective parties had reached an advanced stage.
Struggling Valencia's January transfer plans will now need to be reassessed following the recent departure of coach Cesare Prandelli. The former Italy and Galatasaray boss, Los Che's eighth full-time manager in a span of just four years, surprisingly resigned his post last week after 10 matches in charge. It was subsequently revealed that the outgoing manager had been given a 24-hour deadline to choose between signing either Mikel or West Ham United flop Simone Zaza. Financial Fair Play restrictions prevent them from recruiting both.
"Prandelli never gave us any names of players he wanted," Pitarch told reporters at a press conference, according to Marca. "He asked me expressly for five players; a striker, two midfielders and a left-back, but never said who. "After [Eliaquim] Mangala's injury, he also asked for a central defender.
"Jon Obi Mikel and Simone Zaza could have been signed easily, but he had to choose one. He asked for 24 hours to choose and then submitted his resignation which I passed to [president Chan] Lay Hoon."