TBT: Mariga opens up on the behind the scenes intrigues of his failed Man City move & nearly missing out on Inter Milan

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FOOTBALL TBT: Mariga opens up on the behind the scenes intrigues of his failed Man City move & nearly missing out on Inter Milan

Joel Omotto 08:08 - 09.11.2023

McDonald Mariga has revealed the intricate details of his £7 million transfer to Manchester City that fell through in 2010 and how its disappointment almost cost him a move to Inter Milan.

Former Harambee Stars midfielder McDonald Mariga has lifted the lid on the behind-the-scenes intrigues that characterised his failed move to English Premier League side Manchester City in 2010.

Mariga was close to completing a £7 million transfer to City from Serie A side Parma in the last days of the 2010 January transfer window but the move fell through as he was not able to secure a work permit due to a technicality.

At the time, the rules required foreign players playing in the Premier League to have played for at least 70 percent for their national team and come from a country in the top 70 in the FIFA ranking.

While he ticked the first box, the second locked him out as Kenya were ranked 98 and that is how he missed out on a chance to become the first Kenyan in the Premier League.

“I left Parma and went to Manchester City direct, they brought me a private jet,” Mariga said on Radio 47.

“My agent and I arrived in Manchester, I did a medical and signed the contract but at that time, the rules were that you must have played 70 per cent of matches for your national team and I ticked that box. The problem was our rankings.

“Our rankings denied me the opportunity to play for City. I stayed there for five days trying to sort this issue but it was not possible to get a work permit.

“All coaches in Italy put in a good word for me. They said I am talented, disciplined but we still did not succeed.

“I was so annoyed, and I was returned to Parma via the same provide jet that took me to Manchester.”

A disappointed Mariga then thought the world had turned against him and did not imagine himself going back to Parma.

“I went home and the transfer window was closing in like two days. The first day, I said no way I’m going back to training at Parma,” he added.

“I was going to play in England after being the first Kenyan in the Serie A. I called my mother, told her my situation then I stayed home and switched off my phone.”

Unbeknown to him, another door had opened in Italy after the one in Manchester was slammed on him.

“The first day, my agent went looking for me, no one knew where I was. Parma were also looking for me. The agent came to my house, rang the bell, when I saw him, I opened the door,” remembers Mariga.

“That was like 10pm and the window was closing at 1am. He is like; ‘we are late’. I ask him; ‘late for what?’. He says; ‘Inter Milan or AC Milan, which one do you want?’.

“I thought he was lying, and he told me to get prepared and we left. Between Parma and Milan is like one-and-half hours’ drive and we had like three hours before the window shut.

“We get there and it is 20 minutes before the window closes. They give me the contract, I did not even have time to read it, I just looked at the money they were offering and signed.”

Mariga moved to Inter Milan in a co-ownership deal worth €5 million in a cash-plus player deal, in which Parma got half the registration rights of Jonathan Biabiany (€2.5 million) and the loan of Luis Antonio Jimenez.

It was a hurriedly completed transfer but Mariga says choosing between the two Milan giants was not difficult.

“I talked to the agent, he told me Inter are the better team and Jose Mourinho was the coach and at the time, the most successful coach in the world. I said here, there is a possibility of winning Champions League and also, I played with top players like Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito, Sulley Muntari,” he said.

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Mariga’s decision proved to be a masterstroke as Inter went on to win the treble of Serie A, UEFA Champions League, and Coppa Italia that season, making him the first and only Kenyan player to have claimed the European trophy.

His younger brother Victor Wanyama would become the first Kenyan to play in the Premier League when he joined Southampton in 2013 before later signing for Tottenham Hotspur where he missed out on the Champions League after losing to Liverpool in the 2019 final.