Chelsea hero Mikel Obi admits he nearly came to blows with former manager Antonio Conte during a furious office meeting that led to the midfielder walking out.
During the club’s most successful era in their history, the Nigerian acted as defensive midfielder as the likes of Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Michael Essien ventured further forward.
But it came to a shuddering stop after current Inter Milan coach Conte arrived in 2016.
With the Olympics going ahead, Mikel had been called up to the Nigeria squad and was desperate to win a medal for the U-23 Eagles.
He recalled to the Athletic: “This guy who has just walked in the door for five minutes is telling me I had to choose.
“He was saying, ‘If you do that, you won’t be a part of this team’.
“I spoke to the club and told them that I wanted to go.
“The club respected me because of what I had done for them and how long I’d been there.
“So off I went and I felt punished for that. I came back and I didn’t make the squad. I was never in the squad list on match days again.”
Conte didn’t name Mikel Obi in Chelsea’s squad list in 18 league games spanning the end of the 2015/16 season and the start of the 2016/17 season with the Nigerian needing just one apperance for his 250th Premier League after starring in the 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield on his 249th appearance.
Tianjin TEDA was his destination after the Chelsea board scrapped his contract out of respect for his many years but Mikel and Conte would clash one more time before he left.
He added: “The funny thing is, just before the January window was going to start, he came up to me and said ‘I want a meeting with you’.
“This was after making me train on my own for months, treating a player who had been at Chelsea for a long time like this!
“When he tried to meet with me he was like, ‘Let’s try and make up, I will need you in the team, let’s squash this, blah, blah, blah!’.
“I was like, ‘Are you joking?! Are you f****** serious?!’ He knew I wanted out.
“I stood up and walked out of the room. You can’t disrespect a human being like that.”
Mikel Obi won 149 of the 249 games he featured in for Chelsea in the league,made 539 tackles with a 78% success rate.