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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Michael Essien is a product of Ghana’s renowned junior system, which frequently sees talented young players thrown in at the deep end and exposed to the rigours of international competition while still in their teens. The midfielder, who first represented his country at U-12 level after being spotted playing on the streets of Accra by his first club, Liberty Professionals, was among those to benefit from this policy. His European odyssey began in 1999, following the FIFA U-17 World Championship, where Essien, then 16, caught the eye of scores of on-looking talent scouts. A trial at Manchester United followed but when the offer came to join their feeder club, Royal Antwerp, he declined.

Instead in 2000, and after several months living in his agent’s flat in Monaco, Essien signed for French club Bastia. He broke into the first team as a defender but only after a slot in midfield became available did the true extent of his potential become clear. Essien’s increasingly impressive performances for Bastia inevitably attracted the attention of wealthier clubs and Lyon made their move in summer 2003. Although there was a small element of risk in the fee of 7.8 million euros, the faith of Lyon manager Paul Le Guen was repaid tenfold as Essien blossomed into exactly the player his raw ability suggested he would become.

Two successive league titles followed while on the European stage, Essien performed imperiously as Lyon reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League in both the 2003/04 and 2004/05 campaigns. His fellow professionals in France voted Essien their Player of the Year for 2005, an award which, ironically, had gone the previous year to Didier Drogba, whose own move to Chelsea from Olympique Marseille had set a record transfer fee for an African footballer. Now, even more exorbitant sums were being discussed in relation to Lyon’s dynamic Ghanaian and, after some tense negotiations with Lyon officials, Chelsea won the battle for his signature, with Essien getting his wish and Jose Mourinho getting his man.

Now watch Essien's supurb equaliser against Arsenal in the premier league.

Essien Shows Skill! powered by Metacafe