Michael Kojo Essien (also known as Mickaël Essien; born 3 December 1982) is a Ghanaian footballer who plays for Chelsea and the Ghanaian national team. He is a midfielder who has often been touted as a box-to-box midfielder for his ability to exert boundless energy in supporting offensive and defensive play. Essien can also play in the defending position, as a right back or centre back.
Essien began his career playing for Liberty Professionals in his home country. In 2000, he moved to France joining SC Bastia. Essien spent three seasons at the club appearing in over 60 matches before joining league champions Olympique Lyonnais in 2003. At Lyon, Essien won back-to-back league titles in 2003–04 and 2004–05 and also played in the UEFA Champions League for the first time. During his five-year stint in France, he acquired French citizenship. In 2005, Essien signed with Chelsea for a fee of £24.4 million 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 Football League Cup. In 2008, he appeared in the UEFA Champions League Final. He has won the Chelsea Goal of the season award twice, in the 2006–07 and 2008–09 seasons.
Essien is a Ghanaian international. At 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 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup, where Ghana reached the Round of 16. He is often referred to as the Bison for his tough tackling style, boundless energy and physical presence on the pitch.
In July 2000, Essien was signed by French 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. Essien did not immediately command a consistent place in the team, being deployed in various positions in the back four. He ultimately finished the 2000–01 campaign with only 13 league appearances and one goal, which came in the return leg against Metz in a 3–2 defeat. The following season, Essien was given an opportunity by manager Robert Nouzaret to play in central midfield and flourished in this new role. Essien formed midfield partnerships with Nicolas Dieuze and Cyril Jeunechamp and scored vital goals in victories over Nantes, Lorient, and Guingamp. On 12 January 2002, Essien scored the equalising goal against Marseille at the Stade Vélodrome to even the match at 2–2. He also scored a goal in the Coupe de la Ligue against Le Mans. Future Chelsea teammate Didier Drogba converted a goal for Le Mans in the match.
In the 2002–03 season, Essien developed into an undisputed starter under new manager Gérard Gili. However, his tenacious and physical style of play also began to take form as he collected a staggering 12 yellow cards in league play. He opened the new campaign by scoring on his season debut against Lens in a 1–1 draw and converted five more league goals, which included one in a surprising 2–0 victory over the defending champions Lyon. Following the campaign, in which Bastia finished mid-table for the third consecutive season, Essien drew interest from Paris Saint-Germain, 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. Upon his arrival, Essien was assigned the number 4 shirt and played as a box-to-box midfielder, which allowed him the freedom to protect and assist playmaker Juninho Pernambucano while defensive midfielders Edmilson and Mahamadou Diarra assisted the defence and directed the distribution. He made his club debut in the team’s 2003 Trophée des champions match against Auxerre on 27 July 2003. In just the 5th minute of play, Essien scored his first goal for the club. Four minutes later, Diarra netted a goal. Lyon won the match 2–1 giving Essien his first club honour as a player. In just the third match of the campaign, Essien scored his first league goal for the club in a 3–1 victory over AS Monaco. He featured regularly for the rest of the campaign making 33 more league appearances and scoring two more goals against Bordeaux and Rennes, respectively. On 23 May 2004, Lyon sealed their third consecutive league title by defeating Lille 3–0 at the Stade Gerland. Essien appeared as a substitute in the match. In the UEFA Champions League, Essien appeared in eight of the ten matches Lyon contested and the club was ultimately eliminated by Portuguese club and the eventual champions Porto.
In his final season at Lyon, Essien appeared in all but one league match as Lyon were crowned champions for the fourth straight season. The match he missed was as a result of a red card endured in the previous league match. Essien also scored three goals and collected 11 yellow cards, tied for second-worst in the league. His performances in the league resulted in him being voted the 2005 Player of the Year by France’s National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP). Essien also helped Lyon to reach the quarterfinals of the 2004-05 UEFA Champions League where he put in dynamic performances and scored 5 goals in the tournament. Lyon were eventually eliminated from the tournament in a penalty shootout against PSV Eindhoven. At the end of the season he was named Ligue 1 Player of the Year. His honour started a record streak of UNFP Player of the Year awards for Lyon players with the streak coming to an end in 2008 following Karim Benzema’s victory. He was also nominated for the 2005 FIFA World Player of the Year Award. He placed 22nd in 2005. His acclaim drew attention from Chelsea which he eventually signed for.
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. The transfer went through on 19 August. The transfer came under scrutiny in the Stevens inquiry report, which expressed concerns because of the lack of co-operation from agents Pini Zahavi and Barry Silkman.
He made his debut as a second half substitute against Arsenal on 21 August 2005, wearing the number 5 on his shirt. The game ended with a 1–0 victory to Chelsea. He made an assist in his full debut against West Bromwich Albion, and he replaced the injured Claude Makélélé in the defensive midfield role against Sunderland in the 2–0 win on 10 September 2005. He soon cemented his place in José Mourinho’s side, starting in 31 domestic league games, and 11 appearances in the other cup competitions.
On 15 December 2005, he was handed a two-match ban by UEFA for a controversial tackle on Dietmar Hamann, which resulted in his suspension from Chelsea’s Champions League second round tie with eventual European champions Barcelona. Essien apologised to Hamann for the challenge – stating while he desires to be perceived as a player who “unsettles” opponents, he was not a malicious or an unsporting player. Hamann publicly accepted Essien’s apology. In January 2006, Essien was himself stretchered off the field, after a challenge from West Ham United’s captain Nigel Reo-Coker, and was sidelined for three weeks.
Essien scored his first goal for Chelsea from a low cross from Shaun Wright-Phillips on 11 March 2006, in a 2–1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur. His second goal came on 17 April 2006, against Everton with a powerful strike after an assertive burst through the defensive line. Essien ended his maiden season in England with two goals, both in the Premier League.
Essien was nominated for the 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year Award on 12 October 2006 where he placed 22nd. One week later, he was nominated for the 2006 Ballon d’Or. He was voted as the Best African Footballer of the Year in 2006, a feat he achieved in 2005 as well. He won the 2006 BBC African footballer of the year award.
The following season Essien scored several important goals including his first Champions League goal for Chelsea in a 2–0 victory over Werder Bremen of Germany on 12 September 2006. Later in the competition, Essien scored a late winner in the quarter-final second leg against Valencia at the Mestalla to send Chelsea through to the semi-finals with a 2–1 victory on the night, and 3–2 win on aggregate. It was his first match back in the team after several weeks out with a knee injury. Essien also scored a stunning late equaliser at home against Arsenal on 10 December 2006, as the game was going to end Chelsea’s long unbeaten run.
On 15 May 2007, Chelsea fans voted Essien as Chelsea Player of the Year for his contributions in the 2006–07 season, becoming the first African to receive the honour. His late dramatic equalising goal against Arsenal was also voted as Chelsea Goal of the Season for 2006–07.
On 12 August 2007, Essien grabbed the winner with his first goal of the 2007–08 Premier League campaign, as Chelsea defeated Birmingham City, to set an English record for unbeaten league matches at home – eclipsing Liverpool’s previous top-flight record of 63 set between 1978 and 1981.
On 10 October 2007, he was nominated for the prestigious 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year Award for the third consecutive year and on 21 October 2007 Essien was also nominated for the 2007 Ballon d’Or Award for the third consecutive year as well. He was voted 15th Best Player in the World at the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year Awards. On 12 December 2007, Essien was nominated for the 2007 African Footballer of the Year a third consecutive time he had been nominated. He was runner-up to that year’s winner Frédéric Kanouté.
On 22 July 2008, Essien signed a new five-year deal with Chelsea, keeping him at the club until 2013. He also extended his contract on 12 March 2007.
It was feared Essien would miss the 2008–09 season after sustaining anterior cruciate ligament damage on 5 September whilst playing for Ghana. However, on 7 March 2009, he came on as a substitute in the second half of the FA Cup game against Coventry City. In his second game back from the knee injury, just before half time, Essien scored to give Chelsea a vital away goal versus Juventus in the Champions League first knockout round. Chelsea went on the draw the match 2–2 and through to the quarter-finals 3–2 on aggregate. He made his first league start from injury against Manchester City, and scored the only goal in the match.
On 6 May 2009, Essien scored a stunning left-footed volley in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, a tie that Chelsea ultimately lost due to the away goal rule. The goal was later voted as Chelsea’s goal of the season by the club’s fans.
In the 2009–10 season Essien put in an excellent performance against Blackburn on 24 October 2009 and scored his first goal of the season with a swerving 35-yard shot on 52 minutes in a 5–0 victory at Stamford Bridge. He scored his first brace for Chelsea against Wolves with a header and a low shot from outside the box, and came close to completing his first hat-trick for the club with a flurry of second half shots, one of which was tipped onto the bar by Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey. Essien was injured on international duty during the 2010 African Nations Cup and missed the rest of the English domestic season. On 4 June 2010, Essien signed a two-year extension to his existing contract that will keep him at the club until 2015. Essien returned to action on 17 July 2010 in a friendly against Crystal Palace and scored the only goal of the match to give Chelsea the win.
After missing the 2010 FIFA World Cup through injury, Essien had a bright start to the season for Chelsea. He scored the only goal in a pre-season friendly win against Crystal Palace and was an ever-present in Chelsea’s unbeaten month of August. He scored a brace against West Ham United and he scored against MŠK Žilina in the Champions League. Essien also put in impressive performances against Marseille, Blackburn Rovers, and Fulham, a game in which he scored the only goal and received a red card. Essien again picked up an injury and missed two months of the season, during which Chelsea won just one out of nine games. He returned to score in the penalty shoot-out loss in the FA Cup against Everton but ultimately had a poor second half of the season. After Chelsea’s final game, the Ghanaian FA announced Essien had returned to the international squad.
In pre-season training for the 2011–12 season, Essien ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus, and received surgery on 11 July 2011. His recovery could take up to six months.
Essien’s international career started with the Ghana U-17 national team, the Black Starlets, when he played in the 1999 FIFA U-17 Championship in New Zealand and won the bronze medal. In 2001, even though he was one of the youngest players in the tournament, Essien took part in the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship with the Black Satellites in Argentina. The Satellites finished runners-up to hosts Argentina. His exceptional performances captured the attention of many and was widely tipped to be one of Africa’s next rising stars. He made his competitive senior debut in the 2002 African Nations Cup 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 formerly of Fenerbahçe and Sulley Muntari of Internazionale. 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, Essien 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 that 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 South Africa 2010.
In the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, Essien turned in another brilliant 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 took over the captaincy for the rest of the game and 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, clocking up more than 800 minutes of game time, as Ghana finished at the top of their group and sealed a spot at the World Cup. It was announced on 27 May 2010 that Essien would unfortunately miss the World Cup after he was told that he would not fully recover from his knee injury until the end of July, more than two weeks after the tournament had ended. Since then, Essien has announced that he will be standing down from the Ghanaian national side for the near future in order to focus on his career with Chelsea, having suffered two significant injuries whilst playing for Ghana in recent years. Having recovered from those injuries, he has subsequently made himself available once more for his nation.
Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
France League Coupe de France Coupe de la Ligue Europe Total
2000–01 Bastia Ligue 1 12 1 – – – 12 1
2001–02 24 4 – – – 24 4
2002–03 29 6 – – – 29 6
2003–04 Lyon 34 3 – – 8 0 42 3
2004–05 37 5 – – 10 5 47 10
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Total
2005–06 Chelsea Premier League 31 2 4 0 1 0 6 0 42 2
2006–07 33 2 5 1 6 1 10 2 54 6
2007–08 27 6 2 0 4 0 12 0 45 6
2008–09 11 1 3 0 0 0 5 2 19 3
2009–10 14 3 0 0 1 0 6 1 21 4
2010–11 33 3 2 0 0 0 8 1 43 4
2011–12 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total France 136 19 – – 18 5 154 24
England 149 17 16 1 12 1 47 6 224 25
Career total 285 36 16 1 12 1 65 11 378 49
(Correct as of 16:00, 12 June 2011)
Scores and results table. Ghana‘s goal tally first:
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 4 June 2006 Easter Road, Edinburgh, Scotland South Korea 3–1 3–1 Friendly
2 8 October 2006 Seoul World Cup Stadium, Seoul, South Korea South Korea 2–1 3–1 Friendly
3 27 March 2008 Craven Cottage, London, England Mexico 1–0 1–2 Friendly
4 6 September 2009 Ohene Djan Stadium, Accra, Ghana Sudan 2–0 2–0 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
Ligue 1 (2): 2003–04, 2004–05
Premier League (2): 2005–06, 2009–10
FA Cup (3): 2006–07, 2008–09, 2009–10
League Cup (1): 2006–07
FA Community Shield (1): 2009
2005 UNFP Ligue 1 Player of the Year
BBC African Footballer of the Year: 2006 Chelsea Goal of the season: 2006–07 vs Arsenal, 2008–09 vs Barcelona
2008 Africa Cup of Nations Team of the Tournament
Chelsea Player of the Year: 2007
Ligue 1 Team of the Year:2003
Ligue 1 Team of the Year:2005