Former Ghana midfielder Micheal Essien has opened up on how he fought Olympique Lyon to transfer him to Chelsea in 2005.
Essien left Lyon to join Premier League side Chelsea for a £24.4 million transfer fee and, at the time of his signing, he was the most expensive African footballer in history.
The Ghanaian had then attracted a lot of interest from top European sides after establishing himself as a firm staple for the French Ligue 1 outfit.
But according to the midfielder, the move to Chelsea could not have happened had he not put in effort to depart Lyon after he rejected overtures from Liverpool and Paris Saint Germain in the previous years.
“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,” the 37-year-old said on ConvosWithCarol.
“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 was happy with how the president was handling the transfer at the time so I was angry that 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.”
At Chelsea, Essien won the Premier League on two occasions (2005-2006 and 2009-10), four FA Cup titles, one League Cup, two Community Shields and the prestigious UEFA Champions League in 2012.
He has played for a host of elite European clubs including Real Madrid, AC Milan, Lyon and Panathinaikos.
Essien, who currently plays for Azerbaijani side Sabail FK, played for Bastia in France after leaving Ghanaian outfit Liberty Professionals.
At international level, the Accra-born represented Ghana at the 2002, 2008 and 2010 Africa Cup of Nations as well as the 2006 and 2014 Fifa World Cup tournaments.