LONDON (AP) — John Obi Mikel has followed Chelsea midfielder Oscar to the Chinese Super League by leaving Stamford Bridge on Friday to join Tianjin TEDA.
The defensive midfielder made over 370 appearances in his 10 1/2 years at the London club but said it was time for a new challenge after not featuring this season under manager Antonio Conte, who has guided Chelsea to the top of the English Premier League in his first season in charge.
In a letter to "my Chelsea family" on his Twitter page, the Nigeria international said it was the right time to move with the Chinese Super League "really taking off."
"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," he wrote.
"To play in the Premier League, the best league in the world, is every player's ambition. 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."
Mikel joined Chelsea at 19 from Norway's Lyn Oslo, and went on to win every major honor, including two Premier League titles, four FA Cups, and the Champions League triumph of 2012.
Last month, Oscar moved to Shanghai SIPG for a reported 60 million pounds ($73.5 million), reflecting the financial clout of Chinese clubs who have lured internationals such as Brazilians Hulk, Ramires and Paulinho, Colombia striker Jackson Martinez, and Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi.