Premier League icons - Michael Essien
Premier League titles (2): 2005/06, 2009/10
Essien was an industrious midfielder with a huge work rate who became a mainstay in the successful Chelsea sides in the first decade of the new millennium.
The Ghana international had made his name in France with Bastia and Lyon, before signing for Chelsea in 2005 for £24.4-million, at the time the Stamford Bridge club’s record transfer.
Brought in to provide a foil for French star Claude Makelele, Essien soon made his mark and the duo played regularly under manager Jose Mourinho as they formed a fearsome double-act.
He scored his first Chelsea goal in the 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in March 2006, though he was not necessarily in the side for goals. He would end his stay at Chelsea with 17 strikes and a further 10 assists.
He helped the London club to the league title in his first season, and again in 2009/10, also winning four FA Cups and the UEFA Champions League in a trophy-laden eight seasons at The Bridge.
Fans voted Essien the Chelsea Player of the Year in 2006/07, while his late equaliser against Arsenal also won Goal of the Season that term.
Injuries also blighted his stay and he sat out most of the 2008/09 and 2011/12 seasons.
He left for Real Madrid on loan in August 2012 as he reunited with Mourinho, and midway through the following campaign signed permanently for AC Milan.
He will certainly go down as one of the greatest African players in Chelsea’s history, perhaps second only to Didier Drogba.