HONG KONG (Reuters) - Former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel has denied he will return to the English Premier League in January from Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda to join Everton.
Reports in Nigeria claimed the 30-year-old would leave Tianjin after an injury-hit first season since moving from Stamford Bridge, with Everton leading the chase.
But Mikel said he had no intention to leave the Chinese Super League.
“I don’t know where such a rumour came from, but this story is untrue,” he told Tianjin TV.
“I want to stay in the Chinese Super League and play for Teda. I’m sure there will be lots of speculation about me as the transfer window nears but this is a false rumour.”
Mikel will represent his country at the World Cup finals in Russia in June and he is confident that playing club football in China will not have a detrimental effect on his international performances.
He will hope, however, to avoid the injuries that restricted him to just 13 games in his first season with the club.
“Playing in the CSL will help me maintain my status for the World Cup,” he said.
“The standard of the CSL is quite high. Before people might have thought it was slow, but now it’s very quick. I have no doubt playing in this league will help me stay in shape.
“Of course, there is still a gap between the CSL and the English Premier League but the CSL is improving. To play more games will be good and I hope I don’t get injured.”
Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, editing by Pritha Sarkar