Former Ghanaian midfielder Derek Boateng has showered approbation on compatriot Michael Essien, describing him as “underappreciated” and one of the best footballers to come out of the African continent.
Michael Essien enjoyed a fruitful career both at club and national level. The former Chelsea man was part of the team that qualified Ghana to it first World Cup in 2006.
In spite of this contribution, Michael Essien has largely been criticized by Ghanaian football fans for not showing the same commitment he showed at club level when featuring for the national team.
“When people talk about Essien, I think they don’t really know him well,” former Fulham midfielder Boateng, who featured alongside Essien at the 2006 World Cup following their days with Ghana’s U17 and 20 sides, told Goal on Sunday.
“I played with him at the Ghana U17s and we moved to the U20s together, we stayed in the same house in Dansoman, so I know this guy in and out. When I hear people say things not appreciating him, I know they are wrong – they don’t know him.
“Sulley Muntari for example, people judge him a lot that he is this or that, but no, they don’t know him. Essien has done so much and everything he achieved in his career is deserving because he’s worked so hard for it.
“No matter what people say about him, he’s a winner and a champion – you can never take that away from him.”
Essien is a serial winner, the midfielder won numerous laurels at Lyon and Chelsea. Derek Boateng who knows him so well considers him as one of the greatest footballers to come out of the African continent
“I would rate him among the greatest African players of all-time. When I’m putting down my [African] XI, Essien will be in the squad. He’s a great player. He’s done so much for Ghana, himself at the club side and he’s a good man. I’m happy for him. I respect him and we stay friends,” Boateng told Goal.com.
Despite having played for top European sides and winning laurels, Michael Essien failed to win the African Footballer of the Year award. The former Real Madrid and Chelsea man placed third in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 and second in 2007.
“He should have won the African best player award, I think in 2006-2007 during his time under [Jose] Mourinho at Chelsea,” Boateng continued.
“That time when he came second, we all thought he was going to win and we all felt bad he didn’t win it. He deserved it.
“I don’t think he cares so much about it now. He’s always a happy person and thinking positive.”
Derek Boateng featured alongside Essien from youth level (U-17 and U-20) to the senior national team for Ghana.