Is Michael Essien a defender? His starring role in Madrid-Dortmund Thriller!
For a long time now it has been abundantly clear that European coaches do not view African players European clubs as capable of offering anything creative.
It is therefore not surprising to see Michael Essien shunted to a periodic right-back role at Real Madrid, where he has not disappointed especially against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League Second Leg Semi-Final Match.
Essien played the full 90 minutes, which was a surprise, as Jose Mourinho, the Real Madrid coach almost always dispenses with his right back and adds more firepower when he has to chase a game.
Michael Essien proved his worth through consistent overlapping on the right although his crosses were not all that telling.
His body block in the 78th minute ensured that Real Madrid remained with a ray of hope.
The injury to Dortmund’s Goetze also helped as the deadly Reus, who could have been a handful for Essien, moved into a central role.
The substitute Grosskreutz did not ask the questions that Reus would have posed to Essien.
In the result, the Ghanaian midfield dynamo had free rein on the right flanks and excelled in a right back role.
He was caught off position on a number of occasions when he overlapped and could only track back slowly.
Essien is clearly no longer the spring chicken that he was at Chelsea when Mourinho was in charge; it therefore is surprising that he is given a role that requires sporadic sprints the duration of the game!
The defensive duties he has been tasked with at Madrid come as a surprise because Essien is at his best in a midfield role.
Before perennial injuries started to get the better of him, Essien shone for Ghana in an attacking midfield role at the 2006 World Cup.
Chelsea subsequently employed him in some sort of holding role playing second fiddle to a-not-so-creative Frank Lampard.
Essien’s story mirrors that of his fellow Black Star, Kwadwo Asamoah who is deployed in a left back role at Juventus yet it was because of his inventive midfield play for both Ghana and Udinese that thrust him into global spotlight.
It is no longer a puzzle why African players are given roles that require use of muscle-power.
Aside Steven Pienaar at Everton, few African players even with proven flair and guile are ever trusted with creative roles in European clubs.
It appears the issue has more to do with skin-colour than anything else.
By Gilbert Phiri