Struggling French Ligue 1 side Marseille may have succeeded in convincing out-of-favour Chelsea midfielder Mikel Obi to shun big-money move to the Chinese Super League to help revive the club.
Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who bought Marseille in October, had promised to invest heavily in the January transfer window to help manager Rudi Garcia build a team that could be European champions.
Les Phoceens were ready to rescue Mikel from his Chelsea nightmare in the summer but the player’s reported £3.4m-a-year salary reportedly aborted the move.
With McCourt ready to spend in January – and Mikel yet to play a single game for Chelsea since the beginning of the season – reports in France on Sunday claimed Marseille were ready to sign the 29-year-old.
Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr also confirmed Mikel, whose contract at Stamford Bridge expires at the end of the season, was in talks with Marseille.
“I saw him in London. He is in advanced discussions with OM. Marseille is a serious option for him,” the German told Europe 1.
Chinese moneybags Shanghai SIPG reportedly offered Mikel £170,000 per week to move to Asia but Europe 1 believes the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winner will move to Stade Velodrome next month as he will be a key player at the project at Marseille.
Garcia has said he will only sign top players in January and believes Mikel will bring a wealth of experience playing at the top level to help the side.
Former Swansea forward Bafetimbi Gomis is currently Les Phoceens’ highest-paid player at €420,000 per month, according to L’Equipe.
But reports say Marseille are ready to significantly improve on Mikel’s reported €350,000-a-month salary at Chelsea to lure him to France.
Chelsea’s Italian manager Antonio Conte has stuck with the team who chalked up their 11th match winning streak in the Premier League following their 1-0 defeat of Crystal Palace Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Mikel, who represented Nigeria at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, has won the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League and Europa League since he joined Chelsea from Norwegian club Lyn Oslo in 2006.