Former Black Stars midfielder Michael Essien has an interview with South African sports journalist Carol Tshabalala on Instagram opened up on a series events regarding his football career.
We take a look at the First part of it where he talked of how he felt winning the French Ligue One player of the season in 2005, how he came close to joining Liverpool and how he fought his way to Chelsea in 2005. Michael Essien was quoted by Ghanasoccernet.com.
• On winning the Ligue One player of the season
“I was not paying attention to winning individual awards because I only wanted to enjoy my football. I remember being invited to the Players Awards night but I didn’t want to go until Juninho [Pernambucano] came to talk to me. A few of my teammates were going so I had to go with them and I was very surprised when I won it,”
“I didn’t know they had gone to Ghana to interview my mum and sisters. They only played the video to me when I was on the stage receiving the award.
”I was a bit emotional but happy. Winning the best player in France at that time was huge.
”I was in competition with my own teammate Juninho who was a magician because he could do anything with the ball, so to beat him to the award was quite an achievement.”
• On being close to joining Liverpool in 2002
“I had lot of offers. I was close to signing for Liverpool when Gerard Houllier was their coach,”
”I even went to Melwood to meet the coach. We had a talk and I returned to France but the offers were still coming.
”PSG, Olympique Marseille et al, but I told Bastia I don’t want to move and they also didn’t want to sell me at that time because they wanted me to stay for another year which was fine with me because I also didn’t want to leave the club so I stayed for another season, that’s my third year with the club.
”Olympique Lyon joined the three aforementioned clubs to enquire about me but I thought it was too early to move to England.”
• On how he fought his way to Chelsea
“Moving to Chelsea was not difficult but my third year at Lyon we had Gerard Houllier as coach who wanted to sign me few years before when he was at Liverpool, and this man was a big fan of me, he loved me, he like how I played. So when he came to Lyon he was happy,”
“We had a meeting and he expressed how happy he was to have the chance to work with me and then we went to South Korea for pre-season, and then Chelsea came in strongly with an offer. Obviously the president [Michel Aulas] was playing his transfer game but this man [Houllier] will come and talk to me, saying he knows my love for the Premiership but at the same time he was thorn between me going to England and staying at Lyon to work with him.”
“I wanted to go to England. I remember our first pre-season game, we played against a Mexican side and after the game I was so angry. I was angry because I wasn’t happy with how the president was handling the transfer at the time, so I was angry and I took it into the game. I lost my head and went in hard for a tackle and I was sent off.”
“I always train with a smile on my face but I became so angry to the extent that I wasn’t talking to anyone, I was just getting on with whoever came my way in training but the coach was very good with me. He will be one of my best coaches I’ve had in my career even though I worked with him for a short time. He was always talking to me.”
“I remember I didn’t play two games and then the final game we had to play against Tottenham or so, and the coach came into my room and said Michael I want to talk to you. He said Michael please I want you to play this game for me [Houllier]. I was shell shocked because I respect him so much, he was like my father so I said coach no problem, I’ll play the game for you. I went into the game with the confidence of the coach because he told me he’d do whatever he can to help me secure my transfer to Chelsea. I was one of the best players on the pitch.”
“After the game, he came to me and in a nice way he asked, do you really want to go to England? I replied with a big smile that coach I’d like to go, so we made a little joke out of it. We went back to Lyon but still the whole saga was going on so I told my agent I was not going to play any official game for the club until the whole thing is sorted out. I told him I’ll work my head around it and see if I’m going to stay at the club and the coach and the president respected my decision. I was going to training without any problem and then one day it just happened…I went to Chelsea.”
Essien in the summer of 2005 joined Chelsea for a club record fee of £24.4 million.
Essien won two Premier League titles, four FA Cup titles, one League Cup, two Community Shields and the prestigious Uefa Champions League in 2012 with Chelsea.