Dimeji Lawal has claimed that choosing to represent Nigeria at the 2016 Olympics, is why John Mikel Obi has been unable to break into the Chelsea team under Antonio Conte.
The Super Eagles captain, is the second longest serving player after John Terry at Stamford Bridge, but is yet to play for the Blues this season.
Mikel Obi opted to play for the Dream Team VI in Rio in August, instead of participating in pre-season preparations with Chelsea.
Former Nigeria winger, Lawal, slammed fans and pundits, who instead of sympathizing with the player, are calling for him to be dropped.
“Playing at the Olympics affected Mikel at Chelsea,” he said.
“I remember that Conte was always praising Mikel until he decided to play at the Olympics.
“I’m not surprised that Conte has decided not to feature him in any of his games – he probably feels let down by the player.
“It’s unfortunate that some Nigerians are criticising him. Some are saying he should be dropped from the Eagles because he’s not playing for his club.
“They are wrong. Mikel played a key role in the victory over Zambia. In the Eagles, every move begins with him.
“The young players, particularly (Alex) Iwobi and (Kelechi) Iheanacho look up to him. He deserves respect.”