Michael Essien joined Chelsea in the Summer of 2005 for a French League record £24.4 million. Essien came with a reputation as a tough tackling, box to box, all action centre midfielder, courted by Manchester United, Arsenal and across the continent.
Essien did not disappoint, introducing himself in some style almost breaking the leg of Liverpool’s Didi Hamann which gave him a two match suspension from UEFA.
Essien, however managed to on the whole ‘stamp’ out this seemingly dirty side of his game helping Chelsea to their second premierleague title under Jose Mourinho in 05/06. In 06/07
Essien showed his class keeping his place despite the huge wealth of talent at Jose’s disposal and the marquee signing of German national captain Michael Ballack did not push Essien to the bench.
Essiens incredible versatility however saw his talents arguably wasted as he filled in at Centre Back, Right Back as well as playing the holding role in Makelele’s absence and also filling in for Lampard playing box-to-box when he was out. Essien became an indispensible member of the team and it seemed only a matter of time before he really excelled in the centre of midfield, his most natural position.
07/08 a season for Chelsea characterized by a tearful John Terry in Moscow was possibly Essien’s finest. Incredibly versatile once more, he netted 6 goals in 27 games. Perhaps Avram Grants biggest failing was playing Essien at Right back in the Champions League final and not in the middle. There is no doubt Essien prefers being in the thick of it, two wonder goals stand out. An absolute screamer against Arsenal from 30 yards as well as a left foot flying volley to open the scoring against Barcelona in 08/09 after a long spell out.
After news struck that Michael Essien had received his third serious knee ligament injury last week speculation has mounted as to whether the man nicknamed the ‘train’ for his box to box energetic style of play will ever be able to reach that height again or play at the same pace and with the same power that became synonymous with him. Since his first big lay off in 08/09 Essien has failed to regain his power and drive and despite the wonderful afformentioned goal versus Barcelona he has looked a shadow of his former self missing large chunks of the successful 09/10 season through yet another knee injury.
Amongst Chelsea fans there is certainly a feeling that his time may be up, a player who came with such huge expectations and potential and has given the West London club some fine service over the years may now need to move on, if he makes a return. For Ghana fans there must be an even greater feeling of disappointment knowing that their star is out again having missed so much international football since joining Chelsea as he will surely miss this seasons African Cup Of Nations adding to much football missed previously. For him a personal sense of disappointment must resonate having missed out on his countries fairytale World Cup run in South Africa to the quarter-finals. His loss will be a huge blow for their future hopes so much so that many people in Ghana’s media are calling for a spiritual solution to Essien’s injury problems.
It remains to be seen whether Essien can come back from this but few players could after three serious knee ligament injuries. It would be a great shame if injury ruins Essien’s career, even at 28 he has a long time of playing left in him. What seems likely is he may move on from Chelsea as in the crudest terms they cannot rely on his service any more only playing 25 league games between 08-10 and will probably fail to make an appearance this year for the Blues who will frantically look to replace the Ghanaian.
Rumours are gaining momentum that Chelsea are set to make a loan move for Scott Parker something West Ham seem to be keen on a s they could take some strain off their bulging wage budget and also reacquire their prized assets services if they manage to gain instant promotion. For Chelsea, a loan move implies they will be monitoring Essien’s progress and not writing him off yet otherwise permanent deals would be in the offing. Chelsea will need to strengthen in this position as they look increasingly light now with just Mikel, Lampard and Ramires fit although Benayoun can be deployed in a central role. A move for Modric could help bolster the midfield but a huge offer would be required to tempt Levy to part company with the Croatian.
Everyone in the football World will hope Essien will recover and not go down the route of players such as Owen Hargreaves who failed to regain fitness at United and is now looking for a pay-per-play deal releasing youtube videos to prove his fitness. Chelsea fans will never forget the services Essien offered regardless of the outcome a player with great power and pace but also fine technical ability and an eye for goal. Two goals spring to mind the aforementioned screamer versus Barcelona as well as the sensational top corner, outside of the boot drive to equalize against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in the 07/08 campaign, a truly remarkable goal from a player operating in the right-back goal at the time. For now Chelsea have assured Essien that he has a future with the club after reportedly rebuffing bids from AC Milan earlier in the window. Fans of Ghana and Chelsea can only watch on and hope that the ‘Bison’ makes a quicker than expected recovery.
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