Chelsea’s Michael Essien is a fraction of his former self. The wear and tear of being one of England’s premier midfielders during the Blues’ climb to power took its toll on the 31-year-old. Since returning to Stamford Bridge from Real Madrid this summer, he’s only made three league appearances, with few claiming what they’ve seen justifies giving Essien more time in Chelsea’s midfield.
Nonetheless, Essien’s agent is hinting at a potential move for the Ghanian, with Fabian Piveteau claiming a return to France could take place in the January window.
“He could leave Chelsea this winter,” Piveteau told French radio station RMC. “Several major European clubs playing in the Champions League were informed and the situation should settle down within the next 10 days.
“You should know that Michael was not on the list of players who can play in the Champions League with Chelsea, so he is free to play in the competition with another club.”
“In Ligue 1 he could play only at Paris Saint-Germain or Lyon …”
That Essien could move despite Chelsea’s lack of depth in the middle speaks to the extent “the Bison” has regressed. Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel have been regulars in Mourinho’s two deep midfield roles, with Ramires also capable of playing the position. This weekend against Liverpool, David Luiz was called on at the position for the first time this year, further undermining Essien’s place on Chelsea’s depth chart.
At 31, Essien brings a wealth of experience to a team, experience that’s seen him win for major league titles throughout the course of his career. At this point, though, he doesn’t provide the same explosion out of midfield that made him one of the best in England at the end of the last decade. He doesn’t cover the same ground he did in his twenties, and the toll injuries have taken on the former Black Stars captain mean he’s more mistake prone.
With Piveteau targeting Champions League, it’s worth considering where Essien could do. Though Paris Saint-Germain was mentioned in the radio interview, it’s unlikely Essien would see significantly more time in Laurent Blanc’s loaded team than with Chelsea. He’d have similar problems getting minutes with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City are unlikely to be interested.
There are, however, some big clubs who, whether through injury or lack of depth at the position, might be able to use Essien. Real Madrid lost Sami Khedira for the season. Borussia Dortmund (admittedly, a strange fit) has been devastated by injury, while Milan might see the Ghanian as a cheap upgrade to cover ground along side Nigel de Jong. Even Premier League teams like Arsenal and Manchester United might be able to use Essien, though it’s difficult to see Chelsea letting his go to a rival if there are options elsewhere. Even if they did, it’s unclear Essien would be more than emergency cover for the clubs’ first choice midfielders.
Galatasaray and Olympiacos are both in the Champions League Round of 16 and can afford Essien’s wages. Schalke may also see Essien as somebody who could help them track down Borussia Mönchengladbach for Germany’s last Champions League spot. Depending on what he can provide, Essien would also be an helpful to a team like Bayer Leverkusen.
The questions for all those teams will be the same: How much does Essien have left? Can he stay healthy? And even if he does, is he worth the money?