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26th Jun 2018

John Obi Mikel reveals the admirable reason he chose Chelsea over Manchester United

Chelsea hijacked United's move for the midfielder

Darragh Murphy

In April 2005, Manchester United revealed that they’d agreed a deal to bring a young Nigerian midfielder by the name of John Obi Mikel to Old Trafford.

Mikel was pictured with United’s No 21 jersey and spoke of his delight at joining the Red Devils but then Chelsea elbowed their way into proceedings and disputed the legitimacy of the deal.

The saga dragged on for over a year before Mikel ultimately ended up at Stamford Bridge the following summer.

It was one of the more bizarre transfers in recent memory and several rumours and conspiracy have since done the rounds regarding why Mikel’s head was turned to join Chelsea rather than United.

Now 31 and playing his club football in China with Tianjin TEDA, Mikel has finally revealed what happened and claims that he decided to move to the Blues in order to help out some fellow countrymen.

Speaking to The Players’ Tribune, Mikel said: “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.”