John Obi Mikel has accused Chelsea boss Antonio Conte of displaying a lack of respect as he was forced towards the exits at Stamford Bridge in 2016-17.
The Nigeria international had spent a decade on the Blues’ books when another change in the dugout brought an Italian tactician to west London.
Conte quickly deemed Mikel surplus to requirements, despite a loyal servant boasting two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, a Champions League crown and Europa League triumph on an enviable CV.
Once frozen out a parting of ways became inevitable and the 31-year-old eventually moved on to CSL side Tianjin Teda in January 2017.
Mikel is disappointed at how his time at Chelsea came to an end, but the club still holds a special place in his heart regardless of Conte’s actions.
He told The Sun on his time in England: “Definitely it was the right time [to leave] because when you have a manager who... you have to come in whoever you are - manager or player - there are people who have been there before who made this club what it is today.
“Chelsea was nowhere near what it is 10, 15 years ago. There are players that build and build and build, then it’s all about respect.
“When you don’t get that from a manager who comes in and after five minutes decides to make a change you deal with it, you move on.
“My connection with the club has not changed because of the manager or because of a certain person.
“My relationship with the club remains. I am a blue and I want to remain that way for years and years to come.”
Conte could be heading through the exits himself this summer, with Chelsea seemingly ready to move in a different direction after missing out on a top-four finish in 2017-18.
There are clearly issues for the Blues to address, with Roman Abramovich’s visa problems and the shelving of stadium development plans providing more unwelcome distractions.
Mikel is, however, convinced that the club will remain a global superpower and that problems on and off the field will soon be addressed.
He added: “It doesn’t concern me at all. The club is in really good hands, run by Marina [Granovskaia] now. She loves the club.
“I think she makes decisions purely on the betterment of the club, which is how a club should be run. She does exactly what Roman wants her to do.
“Roman loves the club. He has devoted his time, money into this football club. He has made Chelsea what it is today.
“I don’t care what anyone says, Roman made Chelsea what Chelsea is today and I think, because of the amount of wealth he has brought into this country, everybody owes him a little bit of appreciation.”