By 90Min
November 09, 2017

Ex-Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel has revealed that he turned down a 'briefcase full of cash' to sign with one particular agent as a teenager when a number of Europe's top clubs were keeping a keen eye on the emerging star.

Mikel, who won 10 major honours during 11 years with Chelsea, had been impressing for Nigeria at the 2003 Under-17 World Cup and apparently had scouts from elite clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona interested.

Arsenal were another team said to be keeping tabs, while he was most famously tracked by Manchester United and eventual club Chelsea.

AFP/GettyImages

"I had agents promising me everything. One approached me in the hotel with a briefcase full of cash," Mikel told The Sun.

"I can't remember what club he claimed to represent - but I do remember the briefcase. It was crammed with $70,000 and he offered me that to sign some contract before adding: 'Sign here and you'll get a lot more'.

"I was temp­t­ed. I'd never seen so much money but I told the Nigerian FA secretary who was looking after me. He told me to ignore this agent but promised I would join the best club. After the tournament I went home to my family and then saw the secretary again in Abuja."

(You may also be interested in Man Utd Facing Competition From Chelsea, Barcelona and Others for Copa Libertadores Star)

Mikel joined Norwegian club Lyn Oslo in 2004, but signed a contract with Manchester United when he turned 18 years of age in April of 2005. He appeared at a press conference wearing a red shirt, only to later claim he had been pressured into signing without his agent present.

It was then that Chelsea intervened and agreed to pay £4m to Lyn and £12m to United, taking the player's registration. Mikel moved to Stamford Bridge in 2006 and debuted that September.

The youngster had already been on trial with United before heading to Norway, recalling how Roy Keane served as his 'bodyguard' on the training field when the likes of Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt would try and kick him.

Alex Livesey/GettyImages

He explained to The Sun how Sir Alex Ferguson 'really liked me' and would point to expensive cars parked at the training ground 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 returned home to Nigeria after the trial. It was only that he signed with an agent, John Shittu, and travelled to England once more for a trial at Chelsea - "I'd heard nothing from United," he explained as his logic for going.

Having gone to Norway, Ferguson then tracked Mikel down.

Gary M. Prior/GettyImages

"I thought I had something with Chelsea but United told me they had been looking for me and then Sir Alex visited me. Before I knew it, a contract had been sent to Lyn Oslo. United were offering me £1.5m for three years. I spoke to my dad, who told me I should just go for it."

It was at that point that Mikel wondered if he had been 'manipulated'. There were claims that he had even been kidnapped, but he flew to London and lived in a house paid for by Chelsea while the year-long dispute between the Premier League rivals was resolved.

"I had a secret meeting with Mourinho at his house," he recalled.

SEBASTIEN BOZON/GettyImages

“Roman Abramovich organised six cars to get me there. It was like a military operation.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?'."

"I heard nothing from United after my trials but Chelsea looked after me and my family. I had a loyalty to them."

You May Like