Full Name : Michael Essien
Date of Birth : December 3, 1982
Place of Birth : Accra, Ghana
Height : 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Current Club : Chelsea
Previous Clubs : Liberty Professionals, Bastia & Lyon
Playing Position : Defensive Midfielder
Michael Essien is a Ghanaian International footballer and currently plays for Chelsea in the English Premier League, as a central midfielder. He is also a regular on the Ghana national football team as a deep-lying playmaker for the Black Stars.
Born in Accra to Ghanaian parents Aba Gyandoh and James Essien, Michael began his career at a local club in his native Ghana, Liberty Professionals FC, soon after graduating from St Augustine College. His break through came during a match in the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship in New Zealand. This led to considerable attention from European scouts.
A successful career has meant accolades earned have led to responsibilities being endowed on the young footballer. Thank to one such role, Ghanaian football fans got a rare opportunity to watch some of football’s most celebrated players – retired and active – as they descended on the Ohene Djan stadium in Accra for a match planned to give practical meaning to African unity.
The Black Stars powerhouse used his celebrity power to bring to Accra some of his world famous Chelsea team mates and English Premiership stars like Florent Malouda, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole and Salomon Kalou amongst others, for a charity peace match on African Union Day.
The match saw Essien and Chelsea defender, Cole play on opposite sides, with the Ghanaian leading an African XI side while England international Cole skippers a World XI squad that included Ghana-born France legend Marcel Desailly.
As African Union Peace Ambassador, Essien arranged the charity event as part of his commitment to promote peace among the youth in Africa through football.
“Football is a universal language and therefore a powerful tool for peace in Africa. Because of the celebrity status of the invited players and the hold they have on the youth, football stars have the ability to focus attention on peace in stronger ways than many people from other walks of life,” Essien told the Graphic Sports.
The nation’s premier football arena has, in the past, hosted some of football’s biggest names; the likes of Pele and Sir Stanley Matthews but the event’s star-studded line-up –retired and active -- had never been witnessed at the Ohene Djan stadium in a single game. It couldn’t have gotten any bigger — from a former world best player to a FIFA World Cup winner to two Nations Cup winners, eight players who collectively have shared the African Footballer of the Year crown 16 times since 1987 and five African players who have lifted the UEFA Champions league trophy, the world’s most prized club competition.
Cole’s World XI comprised former France captain Desailly, France international Malouda, former Arsenal and Sweden striker Freddie Ljunberg, Manchester City and Holland star Nigel de Jong, ex-Portugal star Fabio Ferreira, and Daniel Mills Pappoe, a Ghanaian youngster with the Chelsea youth team. Others include Matt Lockwood, Scott Joshua Smith, Nick Hamann, Ivan Klasnic, Oliver Norburn and Ellis Myles Trebbutt.
Former world best player, George Weah coached the team with three time winner of African Best players Abedi Pele, Nwankwo Kanu, Kalusha Bwalya, Algerian legend Rabah Madjer, Senegal’s El Hadji Diouf, and retired greats like Samuel Osei Kuffour, Anthony Yeboah, Augustine Ahinful and Daniel Amokachi likely to make an appearance.
Togo international and 2009 African best player, Emmanuel Adebayor, starred in the African XI, which included Ivorians, Kalou, Yaya Toure, and Didier Zokora, Nigeria international Yakubu Ayigbeni, and some of the players who lifted Ghana to World Cup glory in South Africa; Stephen Appiah, Asamoah Gyan, John Mensah, John Paintsil, Richard Kingson, and Sulley Muntari.
Essien and many of his international friends gave fans the opportunity to watch stars that have provided some of football’s most memorable moments and those still very much on top of their game in the European leagues.
After one of the longest football transfer sagas, Chelsea forked out a £24.4million price tag Chelsea for Essien, reflecting the versatility they had acquired in him. At the time it was the highest transfer fee hey had paid, beating the fee of £24 million they had paid for Drogba, the year before. Jose Mourinho is quoted as using the word 'multifunctional' to describe him, when he joined Chelsea from Lyon in August 2005.
Over the years Essien has played as right-back, central defender, right winger and quite comfortably in midfield.
After a low-key start to his career at Chelsea, he was voted Player of the year in 2007 by fans who recognised his ability to provide solutions where needed as well as powerful performances in midfield.
An outstanding performance in central defence during the 2007 FA Cup Final and subsequent performances saw him selected as right-back in the Champions League Final a year later, ahead of two specialists in the position.
Essien's repertoire also includes some memorable goals; his equaliser against Arsenal in December 2006 was voted Chelsea Goal of the Season. Close behind was a charge forward and angled drive in Valencia that allowed the Blues to qualify for the 2007 Champions League semi-final. A 25-yard left-footed volley in 2009 almost eliminated Barcelona from Europe, 2 months after he returned from a six month absence thanks to a damaged cruciate ligament sustained on international duty. Days later, he had scored in Europe and the league and dominating performances against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and Everton beaten 2-1 in the Final saw his short season end on a high.
In 2009, Michael sustained another knee injury while on national service but then manager, Carlo Ancelotti, was able to rotate his team, ensuring Michael got some play time during the first few months. A torn hamstring in December 2009 kept him sidelined till January 2010 by which time he had returned to international duty. Forty-five minutes into a match against Ivory Coast, he broke down with a fresh knee problem. Michael underwent surgery at the end of January but was unable to return before the end of the season, forcing him to spend the Double win celebrations and world cup on the sidelines.
Essien signed a new contract in the summer of 2010, which keeps him at the club until 2015. He returned fully fit for 2010/11 and started excellently, scoring three in two games against West Ham and Zilina. The powerhouse had returned to his best and amply plugged the gap left by Michael Ballack, Joe Cole and Deco who had departed. Further injury kept him out for two months of the season, during which Chelsea only managed one win in nine games. Although Chelsea failed to win any trophies during the season, past performances mean Essien is one to watch in the forthcoming 2011/12 season, one we hope will be injury free for the player.