Amidst all the uproar surrounding the transfer of Juan Mata to Manchester United, another Chelsea great quietly departed from the club. Michael Essien‘s move to AC Milan went under the radar, but it was an emotional farewell for Chelsea fans nonetheless.
Despite recent years of injury setback that significantly hampered his game, Essien left as a true Chelsea legend and will be remembered as the midfield gladiator that he was at his peak.
The Ghanian arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2005 after two Ligue 1 title-winning years with Lyon as Chelsea’s most expensive singing in history — at the time — for £24.4 million. His exploits helped the Blues to their second Premier League title in as many years while he was also crowned BBC’s Best African Footballer of Year and was nominated for the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or awards.
In his prime, Essien was an unstoppable force, leading fans to nickname him the Bison for the way he overpowered the midfield while constantly causing problems for other teams who soon came to fear him. His flexibility was also a major asset to the team as he was able to transition to the right back position anytime he was called upon.
When healthy, he was arguably the best midfielder in the world, but a serious knee injury sidelined him in 2008 while on international duty with Ghana and he never fully rebounded. At first he came back as the force he was before the surgery, but subsequent knee injuries hampered his playing time and the Bison was never quite the same again.
Many fans hoped for a resurgence under Jose Mourinho, but it was not in the cards so AC Milan scooped up a fantastic player. Essien ended his eight-and-a-half year career as a Chelsea player with 256 appearances and 25 goals.
Hopefully, supporters across the world — regardless of club loyalties — will be able to witness Michael Essien’s rebirth in Italy as doing so would be wonderful for football as a whole.
We can all agree with Mourinho’s parting sentiment:
“I know he can continue to play at a high level and I wish him success and happiness in Italy and at the World Cup in Brazil.”