Tianjin Teda midfielder John Obi Mikel denies Everton rumours
John Obi Mikel has denied reports he will leave Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda to return to the Premier League with Everton.
Former Chelsea midfielder Mikel was linked in the Nigerian media with a move to Sam Allardyce's Everton, but the 30-year-old said he plans to stay in China.
"I don't know where such a rumour came from, but this story is untrue," the Nigeria international 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, who played just 13 times for Tianjin last season due to injury, said he is confident he can maintain his fitness levels by remaining in China as he prepares to join up with the rest of the Nigeria squad for next June's World Cup finals in Russia.
"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."
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch