Tony Pulis gave Michael O’Neill a reference for new Stoke City signing John Obi Mikel.
Mikel arrives in the Potteries as O’Neill’s fourth summer signing, having played half-a-season under Pulis at play-off chasing Middlesbrough in 2018/19.
The 33-year-old – a free agent after leaving Trabzonspor in March – was a wanted man around Europe and had a lucrative offer on the table from Russia.
But he had a four-hour chat with O’Neill convincing each other that they were the right fit.
O’Neill told TalkSPORT: “We didn’t feel that possibly we would be in a position to get him but having met the lad – he spent a day up here with us in Stoke – he liked what he saw and we liked what we saw in him in terms of what his vision was.
“And when you’ve got a player that has had the career at the level that John has had you are always a little bit worried about them coming to a team in the Championship.
“But we did a lot of due diligence on him, got references from people like Tony Pulis who he played under at Middlesbrough and other people that he’s worked under.
“But the most important thing was that John was really keen to come. He wants to try to finish his career in the Premier League having obviously been in China and having been abroad again in Turkey and hopefully he can do that with Stoke City.”
Pulis signed Mikel on a short-term deal in January 2019 and it was quite clear he was a big fan.
He said at the time: “He has the quality, the stature, the experience, people around will grow. People grow around because of his personality. He played against my teams quite a few times. He was always one that stood out.
“I think he’s a player’s player, I’m not so sure supporters will ever appreciate what John does as much as his co-players, he’s that type of player.”
Mikel made 18 appearances and Pulis added: “John is one of those rocks, a building block that you lay the foundations on.
“I’m not surprised about the impact he has had. I spoke to a lot of people before I spoke to John.
“When you have been out of the country for two years and haven’t played competitive football – no disrespect to the Chinese League – then there is always some doubts but everyone I spoke to said he was a wonderful person, very grounded, very down to earth.
“That’s the big issue with players: it is character, character, character. And John has that in his locker.
“People here will be able to say better than me whether there have been players over the years who have turned up just to take the coin.
“John is not going to do that. He isn’t about the money. He just seem to be enjoying it. I was 100 per cent it was the right move.
“It was difficult to convince everyone it was right because we have so many midfield players and I am not sure what the supporters thought of us bringing another one in, but he was never going to be a gamble for me. He was always going to help us.”