Ghanaian soccer player, Michael Essien has been a leading African talent on the pitches of Europe, having played for the likes of Chelsea, AC Milan and Real Madrid. He currently represents Greek club, Panathinaikos.
Here are 7 things you might not know about Ghanaian footballer, Michael Essien.
He is nicknamed ‘The Bison’
Due to his tough tackling style and boundless energy, Essien’s physical presence on the pitch has earned him the name, ‘The Bison’. His physicality throughout the pitch has seen him compared favourably with the likes of Edgar Davids and Claude Makelele as excellent holding midfielders of the past.
Essien is a UEFA Champions League winner
The Ghanaian won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2012. Despite a anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus injury that kept him out of the first part of the season, the ‘Bison’ bounced back to play his part in Europe’s flagship competition. The midfield bruiser made up for losing to Barcelona in the 2007 season by winning the 2012 against Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.
Essien has French citizenship
After a five-year stint in France, Essien acquired French citizenship. He played for Bastia from 2000 until 2003, and Lyon from 2003 to 2005 before making the move to Chelsea. Holding both Ghanaian and French citizenship, Essien represented the Black Stars of Ghana from from 2002 to 2014, playing for Ghana on 58 occasions, scoring nine goals.
He is a philanthropist
Essien is a charitable individual who is softly spoken but well respected globally. The former Chelsea midfielder often organises fundraising soccer matches amongst many of the world’s top players to help raise funds for various initiatives, with children holding a special place in his heart. He is also the peace ambassador chosen by the African Union to promote peace in Africa.
He represented Ghana at three AFCON competitions
Essien has been a dedicated national team player since his youth days, representing the West African nation at the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship and 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship. He then graduated to the senior national team, where he debuted in January 2002. He has represented the Black Stars at three Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) competitions, and the 2006 FIFA World Cup, missing out on the 2010 edition due to a knee injury.
Essien got his start after European scouts recognised his talent at the U-17 World Championship
While playing for the local Ghanaian club, Liberty Professionals FC, Essien was selected to play for Ghana in 1999 and pulled off a fantastic performance in the tournament. He was recognised for his talent by Bastia scouts, and was quickly offered a professional contract in Europe.
He threatened to go on strike against Lyon when they refused to transfer him to Chelsea
Luckily, this was avoided, as on August 14, 2005, Lyon and Chelsea agreed on a $26-million deal to transfer Essien to Chelsea. It ended one of the longest running transfer sagas in English soccer history, and he would go on to become an important player for the London club.