Sports News of Sunday, 6 December 2015
Source: Ghanaweb/Alfred Obeng Dompreh
As Michael Essien celebrated his 33rd birthday last Thursday, and we take a look back over some of the greatest moments in Essien’s illustrious career.
Michael Essien made his competitive senior debut in the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations against Morocco on 21 January 2002 but had played for Ghana in a pre-tournament friendly against Egypt on 4 January 2002.
Already, there were great expectations for the midfielder; the previous year, he had starred at the 2002 FIFA World Youth Championship, guiding the Black Satellites to the final where they were defeated by a Javier Saviola-inspired Argentina.
While Essien has accrued 57 international caps in the intervening years, it’s fair to say that his international career has been riddled with disappointment.
“Playing for your country is an honour. I love my country and I always want to give back to them. It was a disappointment, but that’s football,” Essien told The Guardian in July 2015.
“I could have done with winning the Africa Cup of Nations. You can’t win them all,” he said.
He has been capped 58 times by Ghana since 2002, scoring 9 goals.
First League title for Lyon
In July 2000, Essien was signed by Division 1 club Bastia and made his debut for the club on 30 September 2000 in a league match against Metz appearing as a substitute for captain Laurent Casanova.
In the 2002/03 season, Essien developed into an undisputed starter under new manager Gerard Gill. Following the campaign, in which Bastia finished mid-table for the third consecutive season, Essien drew interest from PSG, Lyon, and Marseille.
Paris Saint-Germain made Bastia the best offer and it was accepted, but Essien rejected PSG’s contract offer, and instead agreed terms with the two-time defending champions Lyon, who paid Bastia €7.8 million for the transfer The midfielder scored only five minutes into his OL debut, opening the scoring against Auxerre in the Trophee des Champions match. Eighty-five minutes later, Essien had his first honour in French football Essien featured in the match that gave Lyon the title (a 3-0 home victory over Lille) and scored three goals during his maiden Ligue 1 season on the Rhone.
Most expensive African player
On 14 August 2005, Lyon and Chelsea agreed a £24.4 million fee for the Ghanaian, finally ending one of the longest-running transfer sagas. At the time, the fee made Essien Chelsea’s most expensive signing of all time, beating the £24 million they paid for Didier Drogba the previous summer.
Similarly, the fee—the most paid for an African player ever—not only confirmed Essien’s place as one of the most devastating players in the world game, coming as acknowledgement for his excellent time in France, it also catapulted him into one of the most dominant English teams of recent memory. He made his debut as a second half substitute against Arsenal on 21 August 2005, wearing the number 5 on his shirt. Essien joined a title-winning team, becoming Chelsea’s then-most expensive signing in the process. He went on to add a new dimension to the Blues midfield.
Third best player in Africa
As 2006 drew to a close, Essien could look back on a magnificent year. He had won the Premier League and guided Ghana to the last 16 of the World Cup. To round things off, he was celebrated in several end-of-year awards—further confirmation of his burgeoning talent and devastating ability to decide contests and inspire those around him. He was nominated for both the 2006 Ballon d’Or and the 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year award, he came third in CAF’s African Footballer of the Year award and was named BBC African Footballer of the Year. It was apt celebration and recognition for one of the continent’s star performers.
That goal against Barcelona
On 6 May 2009, Essien scored a stunning left-footed volley in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, a tie that Chelsea ultimately lost due to the away goal rule. That goal didn’t mean too much as Andres Iniesta’s late equaliser saw the Catalonians through, and the match was largely overshadowed by the post-match fiasco of vehement Chelsea complaints towards the referee. The goal was voted as Chelsea’s 2009 Goal of the Season; it was a finish worthy of winning the Champions League, let alone of gracing an ill-fated semi-final.