Mikel Obi has finally opened up on the real reasons he returned to England to sign for Championship side, Middlesbrough after spending two seasons in the Chinese Super League.
The Super Eagles’ captain could not resist mouth-watering £140,000-a-week wages dangled at him by Tianjin Teda FC when he left Chelsea on a free transfer but after playing in the Asian country, Mikel told the Telegraph that he could not adjust to life in China because of the deplorable state of their football facilities.
Though Mikel admitted that his relationship he had with his teammates was the only positive side to his stint in China but the reality hit him as soon as he arrived in Tianjin, a coastal city of 15 million people in the north of the country and discovered that it was not professional football as he knew it.
“It was two years of a huge culture shock,” Mikel began in the interview, having finished speaking at Middlesbrough’s training ground to a group of refugees. “The food was a problem, the lifestyle, the style in which everything was done.
“When you have been at a club like Chelsea in the Premier League, for 11 years, it was very hard to adapt to how things were done. It isn’t at the elite level, let’s put it that way.
“The pitches were poor, stadiums are poor, and the medical facilities were not what I was used to. I’m not saying it’s all the Chinese clubs, some of them are quite professional, but the one I was at, it wasn’t as professional as it should have been. It became tough for me almost straight away.
“I wouldn’t say I regretted it, I had a good time with my team-mates, but it was never easy. The standard of football, it’s not even Championship standard.