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The tricky case of Jon Mikel Obi

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Mihir Bose | 16:50 UK time, Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Morgan Andersen, former director of the Norwegian club Lyn, has been convicted of forging a contract with Jon Mikel Obi, the player who became embroiled in a transfer row between Manchester United and Chelsea.

The court case in Norway may have no bearing on Mikel’s status as a Premier League player, and did not concern either Manchester United or Chelsea, but it shines a light on the often mysterious and dark ways in which young African players end up in Europe.

The case has always generated great interest in Norway as well as bemusement as to why there is little interest in England in a matter involving a Premier League player whose moves first to Manchester United and then Chelsea sparked great controversy and no little amount of transfer fees.

In Norway, the case was diligently pursued by the police and the prosecutors and led to such interest that when the trial began, Anderson's supporters gathered outside the courthouse in Oslo proclaiming his innocence.

The case produced some fascinating testimony as to how young African players are recruited.

This included testimony by Rune Hauge, the well-known Norwegian agent, who claimed Chelsea were behind the placing of four young Nigerians - including Mikel - in Norway waiting for them to reach 18-years-of-age.

He also said Chelsea paid for everything. The court also heard testimony that Chelsea had violated Fifa regulations.

The Norwegian prosecutor, Sven Holden, was concerned with Mikel’s first professional contract with Lyn.

In court, Holden read out a statement Mikel had given the Norwegian police. Mikel said he had signed two contracts before he turned 18.

The first was with Andersen and Mikel's Nigerian manager John Shittu. However, according to Mikel, Andersen told him the contract was not valid because Shittu wasn't his legal guardian.

Mikel then signed a new contract with Andersen and his father. Both contracts were for one year.

Jon Mikel Obi holds off Everton's Tim Cahill

Mikel has also said he always believed he would play for Chelsea and would only stay in Norway until he was 18. But then he said he was told by Chelsea to carry on living in the country a bit longer to get better acquainted with the Norwegian league.

During this period he signed no new contracts but he was pressured by Andersen to accept an offer from Manchester United. He was worried Andersen might halve his pay and prevent him from playing.

The prosecution case was that Andersen used the signatures on the amateur contract to forge Mikel's professional contract, essential for the deal with Manchester United.

Holden told the court that Andersen falsified the contract, enabling him to sell Obi to Manchester United and profit from the deal.

Had there been no contract, Holden claimed "Lyn would have been left with crumbs when Mikel disappeared out of the club".

Holden added: "I'm convinced that there was no contract between Lyn and Mikel. At the same time I'm convinced that Morgan Andersen falsified the contracts and that the court should convict him.”

Mikel was eventually transferred to Chelsea which saw the London club play Manchester United £12m and Lyn a further £4m.

Andersen, who vigorously protested his innocence in court, claimed he was offered £200,000 pounds in cash by agent Jerome Anderson, for changing sides from Manchester United to Chelsea in the summer of 2006.

He has also claimed Shittu turned up at his office in September 2004 demanding £100,000 from Lyn.

Andersen also likened Chelsea's treatment of Mikel and others as trafficking in players.

The court found Andersen guilty on all counts and also convicted him of filing a false police report against Mikel's agent.

Andersen was given a one-year suspended sentence against which he is appealing.

A Chelsea spokesman told me: "Any evidence during the case that attempts to discredit Chelsea has been completely discredited itself by the result of the case as we are talking about someone who is a convicted criminal."

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