Mikel Obi has opened up on the sensational wrangle between Manchester United and Chelsea which saw him sign deals with both clubs before giving in to Roman Abramovich and saying “no” to Sir Alex Ferguson, twice, Daily Mail reports.
Mikel’s eventual move to the Premier League as one of the hottest prospects in world football was marred with controversy, with the outcome seeing Chelsea pay £4m to his parent club and a further £12m to United in compensation.
Back in 2005 the Super Eagles player was courted by United, with Ferguson desperate to add the midfielder to his ranks and cultivate him into one of the finest talents in world football.
The move got far enough down the line that Mikel, following a month’s trial at United, put pen to paper on a provisional deal with the Red Devils.
Despite being the tender age of 15, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, urged Ferguson to sign him.
United offered him a £1.5m contract even though he had only just left school, but Chelsea’s involvement was soon to signal tides of change.
After initially speaking to both representatives from United and Chelsea, Mikel made the switch to Norwegian outfit Lyn Oslo where he continued to dazzle – awaiting either of the Premier League giants to get back in touch before later signing for United.
Roman Abramovich, desperate to build Chelsea into a European super power with the world’s finest talent, soon showed his determination to land a target.
A secret meeting was arranged with Jose Mourinho, despite the allegiance that had already been pledged to United.
“Abramovich organised six cars to get me there. It was like a military operation,” Mikel told The Sun.
“I started in one car, then the drivers would talk to each other and suddenly I was dropped off and then picked up by another car.
“Once there, Jose told me, ‘The boss really wants you. I’ll play you and make you what you want to be’. That really helped as there were times when I thought, ‘Have I made the right decision?’”
In the intermittent period an anonymous agent representing a different club entirely had offered the youngster a briefcase containing $70,000 (£53,000) to sign for a club, though the advances were knocked back.
Chelsea managed to get their man by paying Oslo £4m for his services, before settling the dispute with United to the tune of a £12m compensation pay-out.
Ferguson had promised Mikel the world once he thought he had succeeded in bringing the young talent to Old Trafford.
Mikel said, “He would call me into his office after training, point at the players’ plush cars in the car park and say, ‘If you work hard, next year you’ll be driving one of those. You are going to play for this club and you are going to be rich’.”
Mikel finally made his Chelsea debut on the grand stage of the Champions League on September 12, 2006, against Bulgarian club Levski Sofia.
An 11-year spell in English football with the Blues later, Mikel’s decision to move to Stamford Bridge was certainly vindicated.
Mikel left Chelsea a fan favourite, having won the Champions League and Europa League, two Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups.