Essien ready for more success

AP

Getting Michael Essien proved a smart move by then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho as the Ghanaian has since gone on to establish himself as the heartbeat of the team. By Simon Peach.

Liberty Professionals are a relatively small football club based in Dansoman, a suburb in the Ghanian capital of Accra. Since its foundation in 1996, Liberty have slowly climbed the ranks and gone on to establish themselves in the Ghana Premier League.

Liberty's rise to prominence comes to their innovative outlook, which sees the club focus on youth and try to employ a scientific approach to the management of football. This approach has seen the club produce numerous top-class young footballers for the Ghana national ranks, including Inter Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari, Sunderland's Asamoah Gyan and Kwadwo Asamoah of Udinese.

As well as the aforementioned, Liberty have products plying their trade across Europe, including France, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands. But it is the English Premier League where one of their products is making the biggest mark. Just 10 years ago Michael Essien was a young up-and-coming prospect plying his trade for Liberty, but now he has grown to become one of the best holding midfielders in the world with Chelsea.

Essien began his club football with Liberty while playing for his country at junior levels, helping Ghana to a third-place finish in the under-17 World Cup.

His outstanding performances throughout the tournament earned him a trial with Manchester United, although it was French outfit Bastia with whom he took his first professional steps in Europe. Essien was deployed across the back at first in Corsica, honing his defensive skills and beginning to earn the nickname 'bison' for his fearless, bullish play.

It was with with the Blues that Essien switched position after an injury left a gaping hole in the midfield. Essien filled the void and never looked back, helping the club reach the French Cup final in 2002 before moving to reigning Ligue 1 champions Lyon for Euros 7.8million.

The Ghana international shone at the club, being voted Player of the Year in France and picking up back-to-back Ligue 1 titles during his two-year spell with Les Gones. Essien, though, soon upped sticks and crossed the English Channel to join reigning Premier League champions Chelsea in a deal worth GBP24.4million.

While it was an example of the Londoners recently-found financial clout, it also proved a smart move by then manager Jose Mourinho as Essien has since gone on to establish himself as the heartbeat of the team.

Playing alongside the likes of Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Claude Makelele, the holding midfielder has shored up the Chelsea side and helped them win two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, as well as a Carling Cup and Community Shield during his five full seasons with the clubs.

Now in his sixth campaign with the Blues, Essien looks set to taste more success as Carlo Ancelotti's side are running rampant at the top of the Premier League.

While many of Liberty Professionals' alumni were helping Ghana light up the World Cup, Essien was laid low as he failed to fully recover from a knee injury in time to make the 23-man squad. Yes, he has achieved many accolades during his time with the Black Stars, but leading the country out in his home continent would have been something special.

After a couple of well-publicised liaisons earlier in his career, his private life has remained out of the public eye. Like Jermain Defoe, Ashley Cole, John Terry, and Xabi Alonso, the Chelsea midfielder drives a Range Rover Sport.

FACTFILE Name: Michael Essien. Position: Midfield. D.O.B: 03/12/1982. Ghana caps: 51. Ghana goals: 9. Ghana debut: v Morocco, January 2002.

Moment to remember: Adding two Premier League titles to go alongside the Ligue 1 medals picked up while with Lyon.

Moment to forget: The summer of 2010 after a troublesome knee injury curtailed his World Cup hopes.

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