- Former Chelsea midfielder, John Obi Mikel has recounted the astonishing tale of his botched move to Manchester United in 2005.
Mikel, who was initially poised to join the Red Devils, shed light on the intricate details surrounding his controversial transfer saga, including a face-to-face meeting with legendary United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Recalling the events, Mikel disclosed that he had a soft spot for Manchester United as he spent a couple of months training with the Red Devils.
But Chelsea were responsible for financing his move to Europe and getting him set up at Norway's Lyn Oslo, pending when he would be old enough to sign a professional contract with the Londoners.
However, Manchester United looked to hijack that arrangement after they got 17-year-old Mikel to sign a pre-contract agreement with the club.
A quick intervention from Chelsea, however, swiftly derailed the deal, leading to a tumultuous series of events that culminated in a prolonged legal dispute involving FIFA.
Mikel said: "I think I was 17 back then. I was in Norway at Lyn, Oslo. I played my first game for the club, and the week after that United flew into Oslo and they were like, 'Okay, you know what, you came once to the club, you were young and we had you at the club for two or three months and now you've gone away and nobody knows where you are but here you are at Lyn in Oslo, Norway'.
"I was like, 'Yeah here I am.' And then Fergie sent someone down to Oslo with a pre-contract. It was like, 'Here, you need to sign this contract because the boss wants you to sign. We want you at the club'.
"It [Manchester] was a special place for me as well because I was there for two or three months. I know the place. I know the likes of Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt. We used to train together. The gaffer was like, 'Oh you need to sign this. You need to sign the contract because we want you back at the club'.
"I was like, 'You know what, I think I'm going to sign this'. So I signed a pre-contract with Manchester United.
"I was sent to Lyn Oslo by Chelsea, so Chelsea were looking out for me and my family back then, so the United coaches found out where I was and they sent someone down with the contract and they were like, 'Okay, we need to snatch you now, we need to make sure you sign for United'.
"So they came down with a contract and I think it was about £1million salary so I looked at it and I was like, 'Wow, this is a changing moment for me and my family'.
"So I spoke to the club and it was like 'you have a contract here; Chelsea haven't got a contract for you so you better sign this contract'. Then we had a discussion for an hour or two and then finally I signed for United."
Once the pre-contract agreement was signed, United arranged a press conference to announce the capture of the Nigerian prodigy.
While Mikel was all smiles, wearing the Red Devils jersey, Chelsea were unhappy with the development.
Mikel added: "I did the press conference and it was everywhere. Then Roman [Abramovic], everybody at Chelsea saw it and were like, 'What's going on here? We've been looking out for this player for two or three years now, what's happening here?'
"Then they sent my agent down to Lyn Oslo and he came to Norway. Then for a couple of hours, I went missing. So he took me out from my apartment where I used to live with a couple of my friends. He took me out of there and was like, 'Listen we need to go back to London. I need to get you out of Norway right now because what you've done right now, we are in so much trouble with Chelsea and Roman is not happy.
"So my agent took me to a hotel and then the next morning we flew down to London and then the rest was history. It took me about a year so I couldn't play for either United or Chelsea because FIFA were like, 'We need to resolve this'.
"I went to FIFA and was like, 'I didn't mean to sign for United, the pen slipped!'"
Mikel revealed that he was made to have a face-to-face meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson at the FA offices as efforts were being made to resolve the controversy.
"I did have a meeting with him [Sir Alex Ferguson] at the FA office in London because the FA wanted to get involved," Mikel added. "It was like like, 'We need to get his this player playing, he is a young player, he needs to play football'.
"So I had a meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson at the FA office, just me and him in the room, that was spicy that.
"I had my agent sitting outside it was like, 'When you go into this meeting, everything he says he will try to brainwash you so make sure everything he says you say 'no''.
"So when I went into the meeting, everything he was saying I was like, 'Sorry boss I can't play for United, it was a mistake I didn't mean to sign it'.
"It was a long table. He was sitting right over there and I was sitting at the edge of the table. I could see him go red. He was like, 'Are you sure? You don't want to play for United, the biggest club in the world? What is it? You want more money? I will give it to you."
After the chaos, Mikel ultimately found his footing at Chelsea, claiming two Premier League titles, the Champions League, and four FA Cups.
The defensive midfielder made an impressive 372 appearances for the Blues across various competitions.