Chelsea great John Obi Mikel was highly sought after as a youngster, after a successful U20 World Cup in 2005 in which he was the tournament’s second best player, after Lionel Messi.
At the age of 18, the Nigeria international was signed by Manchester United in controversial circumstances, in a deal which was conducted directly between the club and Mikel’s team at the time, Lyn Oslo.
Chelsea, however, insisted they had already struck up a deal with the player’s agents and claimed that United’s signing of the then 18-year-old was illegal.
After having already posed with a United shirt in a hastily arranged press conference, Mikel later disappeared during a Norwegian Cup match which he had been watching from the stands.
Reports in Norwegian media stated Mikel had been ‘kidnapped’. But he was eventually found in London with his agent John Shittu.
Mikel has now opened up on what really happened at the time.
“It was surreal,” Mikel told The Sun.
“I was at school, but had Chelsea and Manchester United, two of the world’s biggest clubs trying to sign me.
“I’ll never forget that second meeting with Sir Alex. I’d signed a deal at United but had to tell him: ‘Sorry, I want to play for Chelsea’.”
Mikel then revealed how Ferguson continued to tempt him to come to Old Trafford and how the legendary Manchester United manager was disappointed that he was reluctant to join United.
“He really liked me but I could see how angry and disappointed he was,” he continued.
“Some things he told me made me think about changing my mind but I was thinking about Jose, too.
“I had these two great managers wanting me and I did not know what to do.
“Fergie told me: ‘Why would you turn down United? It’s the biggest club in the world. You cannot do that. You have to say Yes’.
“As a footballer, you have to make decisions that you live with for the rest of your life.”
Mikel now plays for Chinese Super League club Tianjin Teda and will definitely not regret his move to Chelsea after a decade at the club that saw him win the Champions League and Europa League, two Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups.