Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis has revealed that the key to keeping Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel at the club is to convince him that something big is happening at the club.
Mikel linked up with Middlesbrough on a short term deal in January after leaving Chinese side Tianjin Teda.
The former Chelsea star turned down overtures from a host of clubs, including Premier League sides; Crystal Palace, Wolfsburg and Roma, as well as Championship rivals Aston Villa.
Pulis states that Mikel who is not motivated by money but wants a challenge and to be part of a project that excites him may not stay with the club even if they secure promotion to the Premier League at the end of the season.
“I don’t think the key to keeping John is going up,” Pulis told gazettelive.co.uk.
“I think the key is to show him the potential the club has.
“I think the secret to keeping John at the end of the season is to convince him this is a club going in the right direction.”
Pulis further discloses how he went full trottle alongside Middlesbrough’s goalkeeper coach Jonathan Gould to sell him the idea of being a key component in a fledgling team.
“It was a full day, non-stop, making sure he didn’t go anywhere else or talk to anyone or do anything except stay with me and Gouldy, Pulis added.
“Me and John went down there, went to one of his houses and sat there with him, convinced him this was the ideal place and what he would need to get back to playing his best football.
“We told him all the positive about the club, about our plans and how he could be part of something.”
A second meeting at Rockliffe and seeing the set-up and the area helped seal the deal.
“It is a lovely place for him to get his wife out of London, that helped,” continued Pulis. “To come up here and see the area helped.
“I think they have moved up to Durham now and are all settled. She can get out now with the children and see something different.
“We needed someone of his ilk, someone of his stature about him. We sold that to him. We told him he would be really important.”
Since arriving at Middlesbrough Mikel has flourished on the pitch and made a massive impact behind the scenes, just as Pulis hoped.
And, perhaps more importantly, the Champions League and Premier League winning anchorman is enjoying life at Boro.
“John has come in and done tremendously well for us and he is enjoying his football,” said Pulis.
“And I think he is enjoying the club too, the set-up, the feel around the squad and what we are trying to do here. “He’s been impressed with the number of young players involved in the first team and he is enjoying working with them.
“He has seen the enthusiasm, and for him to be playing with Dael (Fry), (Lewis) Wingy and the likes is great for everyone.
“He has been impressed with the raw talent these kids have got and need to learn off the top professionals like him.
“And I think he has been impressed with the ambition everyone at the club has for the future.
“I think the secret to keeping John here is to convince him we are going in the right direction.
“The gripe I had last year was to say: ‘We will throw everything at it and we will get promoted’. Life is not like that. It never works that way.
“You need to build something that will progressively get better. You need to build it carefully and properly.
“When it comes together it will stay together for a long period. You need to lay the foundations properly.
“John is one of those rocks, a building block that you lay the foundations on.”
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