Obi won can Fergie?

Jon Obi Mikel is rapidly becoming one of the most famous names in football, barely 18 summers having passed in life. And yet for all his footballing potential, the average football fan is unlikely to have witnessed much of his playing career but will have certainly watched with incredulity as two of England’s biggest clubs slog it out through the back pages and in the endlessly protracted machinations of FIFA’s bureaucracy. That Manchester United have in their possession, a contract which the player has signed is not disputed. That his head has been turned by Chelsea is also a matter of fact. How this mess has arisen is beyond belief. That Chelsea are involved yet again defies belief. Having been rapped on the knuckles individually and corporately by the FA over the Ashley Cole saga, surely they would have wanted to avoid any controvesy over transfers for at least the remainder of the season: but no, in a display of naivety, arrogance or breathtaking stupidity (delete as your mood takes you) Chelsea have blundered or marched head first into a situation that creates a massive problem for FIFA and if his contract with United is ruled invalid, could potentially impact football on a similar scale to that of the Bosman Ruling.

Mikel has claimed that he was placed under undue duress to sign his contract with United and that all he wants to do is play football with Chelsea. Yet this is the same player who claimed that his contract with Lyn Oslo was invalid and that his registration was co-held by some Nigerian agents who represented him. This is not an unusual situation as co-ownership has played a part in the careers of Adriano (Parma and Internazionale) and Samuel Eto’o (Real Madrid and Mallorca) but it is not an ideal as it can lead to disputes. However, both FIFA and the Norwegian courts have ruled that the Lyn Oslo contract is valid so it is difficult to see how Chelsea can have any claim on the player whatsoever, given that the United contract pre-dates any agreement that they may feel that they have.

Whilst the individuals involved are the only ones who know the truth – or at least their interpretation of it – the outcome is going to provide a benchmark for football. If Mikel’s future is at Old Trafford, FIFA have no alternative but to comply with United’s wish that Chelsea are banned for a time from transfer activity. This will not impact on their squad in the short term but if it were to extend to say, 2 years, may mean that the best players stay with their current clubs or move onto others. Whether this will detrimentally affect them in terms of League or European performance is open to doubt as they are definitely the most consistent team in England and would be hard pushed to beaten on this front in Europe, with only Barcelona, Bayern or Juventus having plausible cases to argue.

Should FIFA merely hand out a fine, or even worse, a rap on the knuckles then the future of football is in even more dire straits than previously suspected. The first issue will be the validity of any contract, particularly those of African players leaving their native lands. How could any purchasing club be expected to trust the seller when out of the proverbial woodwork, an agent could appear to claim he holds registration. This then leads to a further problem of FIFA’s making. They are supposed to be a registry and repository of international transfers and player registrations. If they cannot be relied upon to collate this information correctly, then what exactly is their place in the transfer market. Noticeably UEFA have kept very quiet on this matter, letting FIFA dig themselves deeper into this particular hole.

The likely outcome to all of this is that FIFA will rule that United own the players registration with Chelsea having done nothing intentionally wrong. Mikel will then be sold to Chelsea for a fee somewhere between Walcott and Rooney’s which will make it interesting for him the first time that he visits Old Trafford. What is wrong that FIFA will have failed to make their mark and stamp on the arrogance being displayed by Chelsea, leaving them to continue to ride roughshod over the rules of the game with the belief that money can buy them anything. Except perhaps love.

This evenings tune is from the late Lou Rawls: You’ve Made Me So Happy. Enough words have been said or written about his life and career that my inane ramblings cannot do any more than add a nod of head, a tip of the hat to say thanks for it all.