Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel is set to miss the start of the season after being named in Nigeria’s squad for the Rio Olympics.
The 29-year-old has been included in the 18-man squad for the tournament and did not fly with the rest of his Chelsea team-mates to Los Angeles yesterday for their pre-season tour to the USA.
Nigeria decided to make Mikel one of the three players aged over 23 that are allowed to participate according to the permitted quota.
The men’s competition begins on August 3, just 12 days before Chelsea’s opening Premier League match against West Ham.
Nigeria are considered one of the favourites for the competition and have been drawn in a group with Colombia, Sweden and Japan.
Their last group game is on August 10, but the final and third/fourth place play-off is on August 20 – the same day Chelsea play at Watford.
Mikel, who was involved in Chelsea’s first pre-season training camp in Austria last week, confirmed the news on his Instagram account today.
He said: “First part of Chelsea pre-season done. Off to Atlanta to join the Nigeria team for the Olympics 2016.”
While Mikel is on the quest to win gold next month, Premier League trio Odion Ighalo, Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi won’t be as they haven’t been released by Watford, Manchester City and Arsenal respectively.
John Obi Mikel’s unavailability won’t be too much of a blow for new coach Antonio Conte following the £32m signing of N’Golo Kante from Leicester.
The Blues were also able to convince Brazil not to pick Willian for the Olympics or team-mate Oscar.
Reports in April said the club wanted to have talks with Brazil over Willian’s selection in particular, especially as he was being lined up to play in the Copa America as well.
The 27-year-old was named by Chelsea fans as their Player of the Season last term and there were concerns over a heavy workload.
But Willian only played in the Copa America and is now preparing for the new season with the rest of his Chelsea team-mates.