Former Nigeria skipper JOHN OBI MIKEL quit Trabzonspor after a ‘threat’ from the Turkish club.
The ex-Chelsea midfielder ripped up his contract and fled back to the UK to be with his family during the coronavirus while Turkish Super Lig games continued to be played.
Mikel,32,criticised the Super Lig on Saturday in an Instagram message that called on authroities to suspend and read: “There is more to life than football.”
But the Trabzonspor hierarchy were not happy with the Nigerian and hauled him in for a meeting.
Speaking to the Athletic, Mikel said: “They were really upset about the whole thing.
“I was told to meet with the president in his office one-on-one.
“He asked me to take it down (the post). I told him I wasn’t going to do that. It’s my opinion. This is how I feel.
“We live in a free world. I have freedom of speech. I can express my opinion.”
Trabzonspor are top of the Super Lig, level on points with Istanbul Basaksehir, but Mikel remained steadfast in his stance that football should come second at a time like this.
But once again the Turkish side did not react well and Mikel revealed he felt backed into a corner.
He said: “I wanted to win the league too but at this point in time we have to think about what is more important: to save peoples’ lives.
“That’s what happened and they said, ‘If you go, you’re not coming back.’
“They wanted to threaten me and I said, ‘If that’s what you want to do then fine, I will cancel the contract.
“I will go and be with my family.”
Mikel’s £35,000-a-week deal ran until 2021 but he had been assured of an extra year.
But the former Middlesbrough man is unfazed.
He added: “I told the club, ‘OK, if that’s what you’re saying, I’m ready to give up my contract.
“To be with my family, to help the world to do the right thing — everybody needs to stay at home at this point in time.’
“I have taken a financial hit by taking this stance. It is worth every single penny, I’m telling you.
“To see my kids happy and fine, to know we will survive this together; the only way we can beat this is by being at home with your family, taking care of your family, your neighbour.”
Mikel is hopeful of landing a deal elsewhere once the situation has blown over but categorically ruled out a return to his most recent club.
He said: “Go back to Trabzonspor? No chance.
“We have to look at ourselves sometimes in life and ask what is more important?
“Who do I want to be friends with? When I’m in trouble, who is going to look after me?”
A Trabzonspor spokesperson said: “Mikel’s claim about our club stated in the news you have made does not reflect the truth.
“Trabzonspor Club has taken all the necessary precautions against Covid-19 in a very short time.
“In accordance with the information given by the Ministry of Health, the health committee of our club has informed our footballers.
“The facilities, pitches and the stadium have been disinfected.
“Restrictions of the access of the guests in the club training ground, including even the guests of the players themselves, have been placed.
“Our staff at the facilities has started to work from home in accordance with the social distancing rule.
“Despite of all the precautions and common sense calls, Mikel wanted to go to United Kingdom, where his family is located.
“Our footballer, whom we expected to calm and prudent just like all the footballers and football family members, who have been waiting for the league to be postponed in Turkey, decided to leave himself.
“His manager himself is a witness of this situation. As a result, we had to part ways with him by common consent “We wish him success in his future endeavors.