Middlesbrough midfielder Mikel Obi issues warning to young players on moving to China

Middlesbrough midfielder Mikel Obi has warned younger players on moving to the Chinese Super League (CSL).

Mikel is now back in England with Sky Bet Championship side Middlesbrough after 11 years in the Premier League with Chelsea.

The 31-year-old stated in an interview with the Telegraph Mikel explained the incentive of huge financial reward in Russia will not match up to the expectations in terms of facilities and quality.

Mikel who won several trophies during his time stated that it was time to return to England after his side Tianjin Teda escaped relegation he needed to improve his level of competitiveness.

John Obi Mikel with the UEFA Champions League trophy
John Obi Mikel with the UEFA Champions League trophy

He said, “It was two years of a huge culture shock.

“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.”

Mikel Obi [Middlesbrough]
Mikel Obi [Middlesbrough]

Asides the cultural difference highlighted, Mikel revealed that the standard of the league was not comparable to European lower division.

Mikel also added that another major problem he faced was the language barrier and it will not be advisable for player under the age of 30.

He said, “I think the league in America is on the rise, but for me China is a long way behind them. You can only advance so much by throwing money at something and the Chinese contracts are very generous, but it’s still going to struggle to become a top league. Maybe it’s the language, maybe it’s because it can seem quite alien, it’s daunting.

John Mikel Obi
John Mikel Obi

“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. I realised that very quickly. It’s a league that wants to grow, they are putting a lot of money in, but it is a long way behind.

“I think they are going to struggle to get where they want to be. When you look at the MLS, it’s much easier for players like me who have played in Europe at a high level, who speak English, to go there.”


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