Ex-Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel explains why a decision to reject Manchester United transfer was life changing

John Obi Mikel’s decision to join Chelsea instead of Manchester United in 2006 changed lives, according to the man himself.

A long, drawn out transfer ended up costing the Blues £16million – more than they would have liked to spend – as the young Nigerian initially agreed to join their Premier League rivals from Lyn Oslo in Norway. He even posed in the red shirt.

At one stage it looked like Mikel was off to Man United


At one stage it looked like Mikel was off to Man United

However, Chelsea claimed they also had an agreement and Mikel said Stamford Bridge is where he wanted to be.

Fergie wasn’t impressed. “I don’t believe it’s true that Mikel doesn’t want to join Manchester United; I believe he has been forced to say it,” the legendary manager said.

“His family have been put under huge pressure and the circumstances are very sad. The manner in which he and his family have been treated and pressurised is, quite frankly, disgusting.”

It’s still something Mikel is asked about more than 10 years on.

“My Dad wasn’t too pleased about what happened either,” the wrote in theplayerstribune in 2018.

“He wanted me to go to Manchester United because he loved Alex Ferguson. Back home in Nigeria, a lot of people were saying I should go to United because of how well they work with young players, whereas Chelsea just bought superstars.”

He was just 18 and was being pulled in various directions.

“I had Sir Alex Ferguson calling me on the phone on one side. And I had [former Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich on the other side, putting me up in London, hiding me somewhere where only a few people knew where I was. It was really confusing, and I was a kid, you know?”

A decision needed to be made.

“FIFA said: ‘Listen, we know you’re young and you have these two clubs fighting over you. We can’t decide for you. You can only go where you want. You have to tell us.’

Having joined Chelsea in 2006, Mikel then played 91 times for Nigeria


Having joined Chelsea in 2006, Mikel then played 91 times for Nigeria

“You know what made my mind up? Chelsea had signed three other players from Nigeria along with me. They were staying with me at the house in London to keep me company. These guys …  their lives depended on the decision I was making.

“If I went to United, they were gone. If I went to Chelsea, they were going to have a career. No matter how long it lasted, that was important to me. Just to give them a chance, you know?

“I chose Chelsea, and four lives changed that day.”

United agreed to terminate their agreement and the Blues got their man, though had to pay their rivals £12m, with £4m going to Lyn Oslo.

Mikel’s trophy-laden career lasted 11 years

Mikel’s trophy-laden career lasted 11 years

Mikel remained at the club for 11 years and won two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, the League Cup, the Champions League and Europa League.

It was a career he could only have dreamed of when he was just a young boy hoping to one day emulate Nigeria superstars Nwankwo Kanu and Jay-Jay Okocha.

When he left Chelsea, he spent a year at Chinese side Tianjin TEDA and then joined Middlesbrough in January 2019 on a short term deal before stints at Trabzonspor in Turkey and moving back to England to play for Stoke in 2020.

However, four months after leaving the Potters last summer, he had his contract with Kuwait Sporting Club torn up.

Mikel is now 35 and has now retired and whatever you thought about him, he made an incredible impact.

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