John Mikel Obi has played for three clubs so far in his career. His current employers are the Chinese Super League side Tianjin TEDA, whom he joined in 2017. His first club was Norwegian side Lyn Toppfotball where he spent two seasons between 2004 and 2006.
For 11 years, he was at Chelsea, having joined them from Lyn Toppfotball in the summer of 2006. Prior to John Mikel Obi’s move to England, there was controversy surrounding his future as to which club in the English Premier League he will play for.
In April 2005, John Mikel Obi had agreed a deal to join Manchester United. The deal was made official of the Red Devils’ official website as they had agreed a deal with the then 18 year old midfielder.
Chelsea also made a counter-claim that they had also reached an agreement with John Mikel Obi and his agent, but Lyin Toppfootball denied those claims. Eventually, John Mikel Obi agreed to join the Blues over Manchester United, who were then managed by Sir Alex Ferguson.
John Mikel Obi now explains as to why he decided to join Chelsea over Manchester United more than a decade ago.
“Well, my Dad wasn’t too pleased about what happened either. He wanted me to go to Manchester United because he loved Alex Ferguson. Back home in Nigeria, a lot of people were saying I should go to United because of how well they work with young players, whereas Chelsea just bought superstars,” John Mikel Obi told The Player’s Tribune.
“And it’s true, I was only 18 years old and Chelsea had players like Lampard, Ballack and Makélélé in midfield. A lot of people in Nigeria doubted that I could even make the Chelsea team if I went there.
“So … why did I turn down the biggest club in the world? 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.”