Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel has become the latest big name player to join the Chinese Super League gold rush after leaving Chelsea
Mikel had a medical in the port city some 130 kilometres from Beijing on Thursday and the Asian Football Confederation confirmed the deal on Friday.
“To play in the Premier League, the best league in the world, is every professional player’s ambition,” said Mikel.
“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..”
The 29-year-old, who spent more than a decade at Stamford Bridge, was given a free transfer by the London club and will earn £140,000 a week in China, according to local media reports.
“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 said.
“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 which consisted of 374 appearances.
The 29-year-old is one of a select band of five foreign players in our history to have reached the 300-game landmark – alongside Chelsea greats Petr Cech, Didier Drogba, Branislav Ivanovic and Gianfranco Zola.
Mikel was Chelsea Young Player of the Year in his debut 2006/07 season, having arrived from Norwegian side Lyn Oslo. He ended that campaign with two winners’ medals: the League Cup and FA Cup. He lifted the latter trophy four times in Chelsea’s colours.
Having learned the trade of defensive midfielder from one of the best in the business – Claude Makelele. He won medals while working with Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto Di Matteo and Rafael Benitez.
Mikel played his part in two Premier League successes. The first in 2010, when he was the holding figure in a free-scoring side which won the Double. The second came five years later, when he continued to make important contributions and helped close out vital victories throughout the season. In the same campaign he added a second League Cup triumph.
His close-range volley against Fulham in September 2013 ended a goalless run dating back to January 2007. The uninhibited joy among his team-mates was mirrored by those in the Stamford Bridge stands, highlighting his cult status among fans.
On the international stage, Mikel captained Nigeria to African Nations glory in 2013 and led them in the Confederations Cup that summer. He again wore the armband at the Rio Olympics, guiding them to a historic bronze medal.
In total, Mikel played 372 times for Chelsea, scoring six goals. He leaves with our very best wishes and we thank him for his exceptional service