John Obi Mikel didn’t always get the credit he deserved during his 11-year spell in the Premier League with Chelsea.
Because he didn’t score goals or provide assists on a regular basis, the Nigerian midfielder was unfairly maligned by some football supporters who couldn’t see what he brought to the team.
However, Chelsea fans - and others who paid close attention - saw with their own eyes what a vital role Mikel played at Stamford Bridge.
He was excellent at providing his teammates with options and recycling possession; keeping things ticking over in midfield by playing the simple pass. A great squad player.
Had he not been a top-class midfielder, he wouldn’t have played 374 matches for Chelsea.
Mikel 'signed' for Man Utd in 2005
It’s no secret that Mikel had ‘signed’ for Manchester United before joining Chelsea in 2006.
The Red Devils were convinced they’d secured the Nigerian’s services after agreeing a deal with the Norwegian club Lyn.
Mikel was even photographed holding up a United shirt bearing the squad number 21 on the back of it.
However, the controversial transfer failed to materialise after Mikel decided he wanted to join Chelsea instead.
Mikel reveals what happened
“It was surreal,” Mikel, who now plies his trade for Chinese club Tianjin TEDA, revealed in an interview with 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’.
“He really liked me but I could see how angry and disappointed he was.
“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.”
Mikel: What Fergie said to me after I snubbed United
Mikel then revealed what Ferguson told him after informing the Scot that he’d made up his mind to join Chelsea.
“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: Sir Alex really liked me
Mikel, who spent time with United on trial, added: “Sir Alex really liked me. He made me feel really comfortable and encouraged me every day.
“He would call me into his office after training, point at the players’ plush cars in the car park 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’.”
Did Ferguson hold a grudge?
But did Ferguson hold a grudge against Mikel after he opted to join Chelsea over United?
“Sir Alex did shake my hand on one visit to Old Trafford,” Mikel revealed. “I remember what he said when asked how it felt to lose me: ‘He is still going to play for me one day’.”
That, however, never ended up happening.
What Roy Keane did when Mikel trained with United
Find out what Roy Keane did when Mikel trained with Man Utd by clicking HERE.