13 years later: Mikel reveals why he dumped Manchester United for Chelsea
The midfielder signed a pre-contract agreement with the Old Trafford outfit in 2005 from Norwegian side Lyn Oslo but ended up joining Jose Mourinho’s men.
“So before I tell you my story, let’s just get that bit out of the way first. It’s been more than a decade and I still get asked this one thing about my time in England,” Mikel told The Players’ Tribune.
“‘Hey, what happened to you signing for Manchester United? How come you swapped for Chelsea at the last minute?’ Every time.“
“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.”