John Obi Mikel has revealed that an anonymous agent representing an unnamed team tried to steal a march on his rivals by persuading him to sign with a briefcase full of cash.
The Nigeria star was the subject of interest from a host of Europe’s top clubs after impressing for Nigeria at the Under-17 World Cup, and Mikel has admitted that he turned down the chance to pocket $70,000 (£53,000).
Scouts from Arsenal, Real Madrid and Barcelona were all watching the midfielder but Premier League sides Manchester United and Chelsea, where he eventually ended up, were his biggest admirers.
“I had agents promising me everything,” the 30-year-old told The Sun. “One approached me in the hotel with a briefcase full of cash.
“I can’t remember what club he claimed to represent – but I do remember the briefcase. It was crammed with $70,000 and he offered me that to sign some contract before adding: ‘Sign here and you’ll get a lot more’.
“I was tempted. I’d never seen so much money but I told the Nigerian FA secretary who was looking after me.
“He told me to ignore this agent but promised I would join the best club. After the tournament, I went home to my family and then saw the secretary again in Abuja.
“That’s when he told me: ‘You’re going to United. They want you and you’re leaving tomorrow’. My dad was so happy but mum was crying because I was moving abroad at such a young age.”
Mikel had looked set to join United after signing a provisional deal back in 2005 but eventually ended up at Stamford Bridge a year later.