Antonio Conte admits John Obi Mikel is set to leave on a free next summer but insists the midfielder could yet play his part for Chelsea this season.
Mikel is yet to make a single appearance under the new Blues boss despite being cementing his place in the starting XI under interim Guus Hiddink.
There doesn’t appear to be a role suitable for Mikel in Conte’s exciting 3-4-3 formation, and academy product Nathaniel Chalobah has leapfrogged the Nigerian in the race for a backup spot.
Mikel’s position is weakened further by his dwindling contract, which expires almost six months from now.
The anchorman’s agent claims there are plenty of offers on the table, and Manchester United are lining up a shock cut-price bid ahead of the January transfer window.
But Conte is adamant that Mikel will not be leaving this winter, revealing that the 29-year-old remains in contention to play every single match despite heading for the unattached market next year.
Speaking ahead of the Premier League clash against West Brom on Sunday, Conte said: “The situation with Obi Mikel is simple: he’s in the squad. He stays with us.
“We know that, at the end of the season, probably his contract will expire. But I don’t know what happens now. He’s a player who is part of this squad and every single game I take my decision about him.
“I don’t think this is the place to talk about this. If I have to talk about the contracts of my players, I prefer to do it in the right place with my club.”