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Michael Essien

Michael Essien 22
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Accra, Ghana

Michael Kojo Essien is a Ghanaian professional footballer who plays for Sabail in the Azerbaijan Premier League, as a midfielder. He has also been capped for the Ghana national team more than 50 times. Essien started his career playing for Liberty Professionals in Ghana.

In 2000, he moved to France to join Bastia, where he would spend three seasons and appear in over 60 matches before joining Ligue 1 title holders Lyon in 2003. At Lyon, Essien won back-to-back league titles in 2003–04 and 2004–05 and won Ligue 1 Player of the Year in 2005.

During his five-year stint in France, he acquired French citizenship. In 2005, Essien signed with Premier League side Chelsea for a £24.4 million transfer fee and, at the time of his signing, was the most expensive African footballer in history. At Chelsea, Essien helped the club win the Premier League in 2006 and 2010, as well as three FA Cups and one League Cup.

He won the UEFA Champions League in 2012, while also placing as runner-up in the 2008 UEFA Champions League. He has won the Chelsea Goal of the Season award twice, in the 2006–07 and 2008–09 seasons. At the youth level, he represented his country at the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship and 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship, with the latter team finishing as runner-up.

Essien made his senior team debut in January 2002 and has represented his nation at three Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. Essien has also represented Ghana at the 2006 and 2014 FIFA World Cups.

Born in Accra to Aba Gyandoh and James Essien, Essien attended Gomoa Nyanyano DC Primary and JSS. He began his football career after graduating from St. Augustine's College in Cape Coast, playing at a local club called Liberty Professionals.

Michael Essien broke through when he played in the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship in New Zealand. European scouts began to take notice, and Essien had a trial at Manchester United in April 2000. He played in the club's under-17 team's defeat to Derby County. Manchester United offered him a contract, but he was ineligible to obtain a work permit in the United Kingdom.

He, therefore, considered joining Belgian feeder club Royal Antwerp until he was eligible to move to England. However, his mother meanwhile preferred a move to France instead. Essien's international career started with the Ghana under-17 national team, the Black Starlets when he played in the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship in New Zealand and won the bronze medal.

In 2001, despite being one of the youngest players in the tournament, Essien participated in the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship with the Black Satellites in Argentina, where the nation finished runners-up to Argentina. His exceptional performances captured the attention of many and were widely tipped to be one of Africa's next rising stars.

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. On 16 May 2006, Essien was selected to be part of the team that represented Ghana at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. He played in midfield with team captain Stephen Appiah and Sulley Muntari.

Essien played in Ghana's 0–2 defeat to Italy, their 2–0 victory over the Czech Republic, and the 2–1 victory over the United States, and helped Ghana become the only African team to reach the second round of the 2006 World Cup. However, he was suspended for Ghana's second-round match against Brazil and could only watch as Ghana lost 0–3.

Upon the team's return to Ghana, Essien said the team had gained invaluable experience and would be aiming to make the next finals, held in Africa for the first time in the tournament's history at the 2010 World Cup. In the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, Essien turned in another strong performance, driving the team to the semi-finals with his power-packed performances.

In the quarter-final against Nigeria, when team captain John Mensah was dismissed on the stroke of the hour for a professional foul on Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie, Essien assumed the captaincy for the remaining match as Ghana eventually won 2–1.

He was voted as an All-Star Player during the tournament. The Team of the Tournament was decided by the Technical Study Group (TSG) after careful observations of all the tournament's matches. During an international match played against Libya on 5 September 2008, Essien ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament playing for Ghana in the World Cup qualification stage and was out of action for six months, missing the majority of the 2008–09 season, before returning on 4 March to play for Chelsea Reserves against Aston Villa Reserves. He scored the last goal in the 4–3 loss.

He still managed to take part in 10 of Ghana's 11 qualification matches, amassing more than 800 minutes of game time as Ghana finished at the top of their group to seal qualification to the 2010 World Cup. However, it was announced on 27 May 2010 that Essien would miss the World Cup after he was told he would not fully recover from his knee injury until the end of July, more than two weeks after the tournament was to end.

Since then, Essien has announced that he will be standing down from the Ghana national side for the near future to focus on his career with Chelsea, having suffered two significant injuries while playing for Ghana in recent years. Having recovered from those injuries, Essien subsequently promised his availability to his nation "very soon".

Essien returned to Ghana's squad in August 2013 for the team's final 2014 World Cup qualifiers. He appeared as a second-half substitute in a 2–1 defeat of Zambia as the Black Stars secured qualification to the final round. He started in both play-off matches against Egypt and was named in Ghana's squad for the tournament finals. He made one appearance, coming on as a second-half substitute in the opening 2–1 defeat to the United States.

In July 2018, Essien announced his retirement from international football, after over 12 years of active service with Ghana. He said that he even retired before the 2014 World Cup but he was called back by the current Ghana coach, James Kwesi Appiah to come and help the team.

Essien is a physically strong midfielder, who often plays in a central midfield role. He has often been touted as a box-to-box midfielder for his ability to exert energy in supporting both offensive and defensive play, and for his powerful and tough tackling playing style, which has earned him the nickname "The Bison".

Essien can also play as a defender, both on the right of defense and in the center. In addition to his work rate, physicality, and defensive skills, Essien also possesses good technique, vision, tactical intelligence, and leadership qualities, and is a powerful striker of the ball from distance.