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Flashback: The controversial transfer of John Obi Mikel

Published 04 Mar 2013, 00:09 IST
04 Mar 2013, 00:09 IST

Transfer controversy, mind games, verbal spats, other football management controversies – Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho are rarely out of the limelight. Jose Mourinho, the most controversial manager of  Chelsea F.C in the Premier League’s platinum era, and the most successful manager Sir Alex Ferguson, have each had their fair share of controversies with other managers in the league, the most prominent of those being Rafael Benitez.

However, when these two heavyweight managers clash, there is bound to be an explosion. All that is required is a player below the age of 25 with suitable talent to be open to a transfer. In April 2005, John Obi Mikel provided the cause for the clash of the managers, a transfer to England which would go down in the books as the most controversial in the history of the Premier League.

In the 2005 summer transfer window, Norwegian side Lyn were approached by Manchester United, with Ferguson’s eyes fixed on then 18-year-old John Obi Mikel. In a bid to close the transfer as quickly as possible, Mikel, in the absence of his agents, was allegedly pressurized into signing a 4-year contract with the Red Devils for an estimated  £4 million, with Mikel set to join them in 2006.

However, just when Ferguson thought he had sealed the deal, it was discovered that Mikel had signed multiple deals with various sports agents in the country. Chelsea later filed a counter claim stating their involvement in the transfer of the player to England, and that they had negotiated with the player’s agents (not present when United approached the club), and that Mikel was in talks with Jose Mourinho. All allegations that were denied by Lyn. In a bizzare U-turn by the player, Mikel held a press conference sporting a United jersey announcing that he had signed a contract with United; an incident which resulted in threats from unknown sources and increase in security for Mikel. After managing to give his Z-plus security the slip, both United and Lyn arrived at the conclusion that the player was either kidnapped by the media or by Chelsea F.C. Even to this day, no one knows the truth of that incident, but reports suggest that Manchester United assistant coach had allegedly given a statement suggesting that Chelsea had kidnapped the player in a bid to sign the talented youngster.

Nigerian soccer player John Obi Mikel sm

If the controversial cloud wasn’t big enough for Mikel, he along with his agent made their way to London and finally made a public appearance, via Sky Sports, after nine days of hiding, stating that United had forced him to sign a contract, and his heart was truly with Chelsea. Such was the impact that the Manchester United management filed an official complaint to FIFA, which was ineffective with regard to the prescribed amount of evidence not present. However, Mikel was not lucky the second time when Lyn lodged a complaint with FIFA when he failed to return to Lyn, as there was a ruling by the footballing body which would keep him at the club till they came to a decision to consider Manchester United’s contract validity.

However, in a dramatic turn of events, all three clubs came to an agreement when Chelsea offered to put the controversy to sleep by offering Manchester United £12 million to make sure that the Red Devils let go of the player and also £4 million; both payments taking place two years later in 2007. However, Mikel would join the Blues the following year in the summer for a total of  £16 million to both Manchester United and Lyn Oslo.

Amid controversies engulfing Mikel today, such as racism allegations against Mark Clattenburg, Sir Alex Ferguson must be thankful to Chelsea F.C for two things. Firstly, the initial amount Lyn quoted for the player was £4 million. However, United were paid  £12 million for the player which is three times the original amount, so it was good business. Secondly, Mikel saved Alex Ferguson all the drama he created during the transfer controversy and was allowed to go to Chelsea, where he always wanted to go, which made it a win-win.

On a hilarious note, it is shocking that no one in the film industry has thought of making a documentary on this topic. However, should the movie be made, it could be a genuine Academy award and BAFTA award winner.

Modified 20 Mar 2019, 14:54 IST
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