John Obi Mikel is in talks to join Marseille after being frozen out at Chelsea under Antonio Conte, according to Nigeria head coach Gernot Rohr.
Mikel, 29, has not featured in a single matchday squad for the Blues this season, having been surpassed in the midfield pecking order by summer signing N’Golo Kante and academy graduate Nathaniel Chalobah.
Chelsea are not expected to offer the Nigeria international an extension to his current contract, which expires next summer, and back in September he revealed he was making plans for the next stage of his career after 10 trophy-laden years at Stamford Bridge.
“I saw Obi Mikel in London,” Rohr told Europe 1. “He is in advanced discussions with Olympique Marseille. “He will leave Chelsea for free, this is a serious option.”
Mikel has made 368 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions since arriving in a controversial transfer from Lyn Oslo in June 2006, scoring six goals and winning 10 major trophies at Stamford Bridge, including two Premier League titles and the 2012 Champions League.
But after missing much of preseason to represent Nigeria at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in the summer, Mikel has been unable to break into Conte’s first-team plans as Chelsea overcame a shaky September to record 11 Premier League wins in a row and surge seven points clear at the top of the table.
Asked about Mikel’s contract situation in November, Conte said: “Have I spoken to him now? No, but I repeat, now it’s important to be focused on the championship in this period. We are in November. It’s important to be focused on the pitch. Then, we can focus on other situations in time.
“It’s normal in every squad, there are players who are towards the end of their contract, and they and the club together take a decision on their futures. Mikel is working very well now. In the past he’s sometimes had some injuries. But now he’s working very hard, and I’m pleased with his work rate.”
Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.