Super Eagles captain, John Mikel Obi, has finally opened up about the tug of war between Manchester United and Chelsea for his services in 2005. Mikel Obi was 18 at the time and was pictured in a Red Devils’ jersey, after impressing at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in the Netherlands. There was then a twist in the story, as he claimed he was forced to sign for the Old Trafford side and wanted to join the Blues.
In an interview with The Players’ Tribune, the Nigerian midfielder said it was because of his other countrymen at Stamford Bridge he snubbed United. He said: “My Dad wasn’t too pleased about what happened either. 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. “And it’s true, I was only 18 years old and Chelsea had players like Lampard, Ballack and Makélélé in midfield. A lot of people in Nigeria doubted that I could even make the Chelsea team if I went there. “So … why did I turn down the biggest club in the world? “I’ll tell you what happened. I had all these people on both sides fighting over me. Agents, managers, strangers, guys handing me papers. I had Sir Alex Ferguson calling me on the phone on one side. And I had 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? “After a while, someone from FIFA gave me a phone call. They 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.’ “I thought about it for a long time. It was the biggest decision of my life. “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.”