Today makes it exactly 15 years that the then-prodigiously gifted youngster completed a controversial move to Chelsea to become the most expensive African teenager in the game but is that honour still his?
After a back-and-forth between Norway’s Lyn Oslo and two English Premier League giants Manchester United and Chelsea, a 19-year-old John Mikel Obi moved to Stamford Bridge in a deal worth €20 million in July 2006
At the time, that monstrous transfer fee was the most any club had ever shelled out on an African teenager.
Mikel Obi struggled for a while under the weight of that record transfer, but his talent eventually shown through as he helped the London club win quite a few laurels.
He will forever be remembered by Chelsea fans for that virtuoso performance in the 2012 Champions League final to inspire Chelsea to their first-ever triumph in the competition.
Two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, and one Europa League trophy later, the former Super Eagles skipper left Chelsea in January 2017 for the Chinese Super League, but with his legacy in London forever secured.
But the Nigerian midfielder’s transfer record was never going to stand untouched for all times, and early in January – 15 years later – an enormously talented Ivorian lad made a new mark in the history books.
Manchester United completed the signing of young Amad Diallo from Atalanta for a fee reportedly around €40 million to hand the wiz-kid the new tag of the most expensive African teenager in world football.
Barely seven months later, another gifted teen forward has reportedly pushed Mikel Obi further down to third.
Last week, young playmaker Kamaldeen Sulemana became the most expensive teenage footballer from Ghana following his move to Stade Rennes from Danish side Nordsjaelland.
Kamaldeen put pen to paper on a five-year deal, which will see him stay at the Ligue 1 club until 2026.
While Rennes, in their official announcement of the deal, refused to disclose the contract’s financial details, it is believed that Nordsjaelland pocketed €15 million before sanctioning the transfer of their prized jewel.
In which case, Mikel Obi will remain on the second spot on the teen transfer list.
However, a section of the Ghanaian media insists that the Kamaldeen deal is worth €21 million (€15 million upfront and $6 million in bonuses).
If that is true, the new Rennes signing will rise to become the second most expensive teenager on the continent.
Nonetheless, transfer fees in football matter just a little in the grand scheme of things, and both Amad and Kamaldeen will be fulfilled if they win a fraction of Mikel Obi’s trophy haul by the time they call time on their careers in the beautiful game.