Super Eagles captain, John Mikel Obi, has admitted that he knew he would leave China after only one year, because of the huge “culture shock”.
Speaking to the UK Telegraph, the 31-year-old however insisted that he has no regrets about spending the last two years in Asia.
Mikel Obi signed for Tianjin Teda, after winning the Champions League, the Premier League twice and three FA Cups during his 11 years at Chelsea.
“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.
“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.
“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,” Mikel Obi said.
Mikel Obi, who now plays for Middlesbrough in the Championship, also confessed that his family played a big role in his decision to return to England.
“I missed my family a lot. They come over maybe twice a year and liked it when they visited, but they were the main reason I had to come back
“As a life experience, I enjoyed it. Professionally, it was tough, but I had some good times. It was a nice city and the people I met at the club were great. But it was definitely the right time for me to come back and play at a higher level again. I knew I was going to leave, probably after a year,” he added.