It was one of the most fascinating transfer sagas in modern football history, ending in a year-long court battle and with one very unhappy club.
Now, more than ten years on, John Obi Mikel finally reveals what really happened when he signed for both Manchester United and Chelsea.
After impressing for Nigeria at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, Mikel earned a trial at Manchester united, as reported in The Sun.
Still in school, Mikel left his family to go oversees and train with United’s first team. So impressed by the teenager’s talent, Roy Keane and Paul Scholes told Sir Alex Ferguson that he must sign John Obi Mikel.
A month’s trial was followed by another three weeks at Carrington.
One agent even approached the Nigerian with a briefcase full of cash – £53,000 to be exact – promising that and more if he signed then and there.
Desperate to get his man, Alex Ferguson told Mikel that he could be driving plush cars like all the other Manchester United players.
After returning home, Mikel’s first call wasn’t from United as promised, but from agent John Shittu telling him Chelsea were now interested.
The midfielder trained with the Blues and subsequently signed Shittu as his agent.
Seven months passed and Mikel moved to Norway where he trained under former United man Henning Berg at Lyn Oslo.
After turning 18, Mikel signed a pro contract with the side and, following a few appearances for the club, Ferguson flew out to meet him.
The ex-United boss declared he did not want to lose Mikel again and sent a contract worth £1.5million to Lyn Oslo.
Mikel signed and was photographed in a Manchester United shirt at a press conference.
It wasn’t until Mikel had signed that he found out Chelsea had an agreement in place with Lyn Oslo to not sell him to any other club.
“We flew to London,” Mikel told The Sun . “I remember thinking: ‘I’ve signed for United but now I’m flying to Chelsea!’.”
News in Norway had reported that Mikel had been kidnapped such was the nature of his sudden disappearance.
The Nigerian stayed in a house in London while a year-long legal battle ensued, not kicking a ball for a club in that time. Mikel did however compete for Nigeria in the African Nations Cup in Egypt.
Upon returning, Mikel met with then Premier League chief Sir Dave Richards and told him that he wanted to play for Chelsea.
A secret meeting with Jose Mourinho then took place, involving six cars just to get Mikel there. The Portuguese convinced Mikel to join.
Mikel met with Fergie again seven days later when he had to tell a very angry Old Trafford legend he wouldn’t be joining the club.
“It was surreal,” Mikel told The Sun. “I was at school, but had Chelsea and Manchester United — two of the world’s biggest clubs — trying to sign me. I’ll never forget that second meeting with Sir Alex. I’d signed a deal at United but had to tell him: ‘Sorry, I want to play for Chelsea’.
“I heard nothing from United after my trials but Chelsea looked after me and my family. I had a loyalty to them.”
Barcelona were even ready to pounce should neither club settle the dispute.
But the ordeal ended with Chelsea paying £4m to Lyn Oslo and £12m to Manchester United in compensation.
Mikel went on to make 374 appearances for Chelsea, winning two Premier League titles, four FA Cups, One Champions League trophy and one Europa League trophy.
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