In his time, Michael Essien was quite simply a behemoth in the middle of the park. Emerging from a class of hard-nosed yet classy midfielders which permeated the fabric of the English top-flight in the early 2000s, the Ghanaian played a major part in the establishment of Chelsea as a domestic powerhouse in England.
He started his professional career at Bastia but it was with French giants Lyon that he established himself as one of the best midfielders in his generation. His three-year stint in France coincided with OL’s period of superiority in both domestic and European fronts, yet when a chance to play in the Premier League presented itself, Essien didn’t hesitate.
Then Blues manager Jose Mourinho considered the Ghana international a top priority signing. But while Essien slotted in seamlessly to the Blues squad under the guidance of the Portuguese, his actual transfer to West London from Ligue 1 club Lyon was anything but.
Speaking to the Chelsea website before a friendly match between his two former sides that ended in a penalty shootout win for the Blues, the midfield enforcer opened up on what transpired in the summer of 2005. “The whole thing came about one afternoon while I was at Florent Malouda’s house, having a barbecue,” said the midfielder, who had his aforementioned Lyon teammate follow him to Stamford Bridge later in 2007.
“He got a call from Didier Drogba asking about me, and he said, ‘Oh, Michael is right here.’ He put him on the phone to me and that’s how everything started,” he continued.
“It was a very long saga, that transfer, and very frustrating that it took so long because I really wanted to come to the Premier League. In the end, we managed to come to an agreement and I was really excited when I first walked into the club at Chelsea.
“As I said, it was my dream to play in the Premier League and Chelsea showed a very big interest in me, so when the deal went through I was very happy. I came in and everything went well.”
Indeed, he had a successful spell at West London, winning two league titles, four FA Cups, one League Cup and the Champions League for the Blues. Looking back, perhaps it is fair to say that Essien made the right decision thirteen years ago.