Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel believes Antonio Conte is punishing him for his decision to play at the Olympics with Nigeria.
The 29-year-old has not made an appearance this season, having been frozen out of the first team since his return from Rio de Janeiro, where he claimed a bronze medal.
Nigeria’s technical adviser Gernot Rohr claimed that Conte has deliberately kept Mikel out of his plans as a result of his decision to forgo their pre-season plans in favour of playing at the Olympics.
Mikel is adamant he would not trade that experience for a chance to get back into the Chelsea side, but he feels that such a stance has made him something of a pariah to his manager.
“I have never been a guy who makes excuses in life and never shy away from responsibilities,” the former Lyn man, who scored in Nigeria’s 3-1 World Cup qualifying win over Algeria on Saturday, told The Sun.
“Yes, maybe people will say the new manager was upset I left and went to the Olympics, that I didn’t have a pre-season with the team. He probably thinks I don’t care about the team, things like that.
“But I don’t want to use those excuses. I have to keep training hard and make sure I change the manager’s mind. If not, then we’ll see what happens in January.
“But, no, I would never swap my Olympic medal for a place back in the Chelsea team. One thing you have to do in life as a man is that when you make a decision, or a sacrifice, you have to deal with it.
“I have not one single regret in going to the Olympics. And I will not trade my medal for anything.”
Mikel says there was no encouragement from Chelsea for him to secure a move away from Stamford Bridge during the transfer window.
However, after 10 years at the club – during which he has claimed 11 trophies, including two Premier League titles and the Champions League – Mikel admits he could move on in January.
“There was no communication. The club didn’t tell me to leave or give me the green light to go – and then the transfer window ended,” he said.
“I only have one year left on my contract. But I don’t want to leave just like that. It’s good to leave when you finish your contract and you know your business is done.
“I have been part of the best years of this club. Chelsea had never won the Champions League before me. I played in the 2012 final and was man of the match. I’ve written my name in the history book of this football club.
“I’ve done it all but, as a player, I’m still hungry for more. I still want to help the club but, if it should end, then okay.”