Football

Mikel swops Chelsea for China

Mikel cites lack of playing opportunities at Chelsea for decision to join China's Tianjin Teda

Jon Obi Mikel has become the latest Chelsea player to head to the Chinese Super League after announcing he is joining Tianjin Teda.

After Oscar recently departed Stamford Bridge to sign for Shanghai SIPG, Mikel revealed on Twitter on Thursday that he was heading in the same direction following a 10-year stay at Chelsea.

The midfielder, who has failed to break into the Chelsea side under Antonio Conte this season, gave no details about the contract he has signed.

Mikel said in a statement: "As you will know, I haven't featured as much this season as I would have liked and, at 29, I still have many years in the game ahead of me.

"With this in mind, I feel now is the time to seek a new challenge.

"I'm delighted to be joining Tianjin Teda FC in China, at a time that the Chinese Super League is really taking off, and I look forward to helping Tianjin Teda FC continue to grow both on and off the pitch in the next few years."

Mikel won 11 trophies with Chelsea during a spell at the club where he made 374 appearances.

"To play in the Premier League, the best league in the world, is every professional player's ambition," the 29-year-old added.

"But 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.

"To everyone at Chelsea - goodbye, and thank you. You will always be part of who I am, and I wish you the best of luck.

"I could not be happier to be saying goodbye with the club back where it belongs - top of the league."

Mikel is the latest high-profile acquisition for the Chinese Super League, following in the footsteps of Carlos Tevez, Graziano Pelle, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Jackson Martinez, Hulk and former Chelsea teammate Oscar, who cost around £52 million (S$92m).

Former Manchester United and Manchester City striker Tevez is reportedly set to earn £615,000-a-week at Shanghai Shenhua, making him the highest paid player in the world.

Cristiano Ronaldo's agent also claimed last month that Real Madrid were offered 300 million euros (S$453m) for the Portugal skipper by an unnamed Chinese Super League club, but said his client had no interest in the deal.

However, with China now becoming a more popular destination for top players, the Chinese government is reportedly attempting to impose restrictions on the big spending.

In quotes run in several national newspapers, a government spokesman accused clubs of "burning money" on new players and said it "would regulate and restrain high-priced signings, and impose reasonable restrictions on players' high incomes".

Clubs, whose overseas quota was reduced from five to four players last month, have also been warned they could face sanctions for excessive spending and should back youth development.

"We must take building 100-year clubs as the goal," the spokesman added.

"We will remove the seriously insolvent clubs from the professional league." - PA SPORT

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