By Akyereko Frimpong Manson
Follow Akyereko on Twitter: @Akyereko
When Michael Essien landed in Milan last Friday night ahead of his move from Chelsea, there was divided optimism among fans as to whether he can make a mark in the Serie A.
The structural style and ingredients in the Milan midfield department was the major concern for Ghana fans. Does Essien still hold the power and armour to fight for a place at the club?
For the past three seasons, since the end of the Carlo Ancelotti era at Chelsea, the Bison fell out of favour at the Stamford Bridge. Age being a bigger factor, successive long-term injuries and the arrival of more stylish and energetic players to suit the aspirations of the Chelsea faithfuls all contributed to his fate at the club.
Clearly, the Roberto Di Matteo era defined the fate of the one-time fans favourite at the club. Being left out of the entire team for the Uefa Champions League final against Bayern Munich was a crystal message.
But entangled with pure passion and dedication for the Blue colour, Essien headed abroad on loan – went to Real Madrid, where he enjoyed the comfort of his ‘father’ Mourinho.
His final game in the Los Merengues shirt brought him some hope of reclaiming that authority in midfield back in the English Premier League as he revealed Mourinho told him during his celebrations that he would return to Chelsea with him.
The pre-season brought successes as he played a key role in Mourinho’s reconnaissance works in Asia but when the season rowed open, the swashbuckling combination of Hazard, Oscar, Willian with a more visionary Ramirez delights the Chelsea fans and their results churning play gives Essien no chance of making it at the club. Nothing taken from Nigerian Mikel Obi, but in a season when the Super Eagles star flourishes more than Essien and reduce him to only starts in league cup games, Essien had no option than to leave.
Mourinho’s open comments about the future of the Black Stars midfielder put many clubs on the alert – including West Ham United. Paris Saint-Germain and Turks Galatasaray were among the clubs linked to him. Gala and PSG were quite appealing.
West Ham and Galatasaray were outmuscled due to interest and class.
As revealed after he was unveiled on Tuesday, newly-appointed manager Clarence Seedorf influenced his decision to join the Rossoneris. Of course joining a club mainly due to assurances from the man who makes the final squad decision is right.
But has le bison still got the powers to shake off challenges from Nigel De Jong, Urby Emmanuelson, Andrea Poli and Recardo Montolivo?
Is it still quite a big fact that Essien still got his quality with him. When we all thought he was finished as Chelsea relegated him to their bench, he stormed down to the Baba Yara stadium and proved a point to his doubters, helping Ghana to brush aside Egypt and qualify for Brazil.
In that same spirit, he played and captained Chelsea in their Cup games.
However Italy will offer a different challenge for him. The Serie A requires some brute physical force and quality to succeed. And Essien has got what it takes to excel there.
Essien’s European experience and quality will give him the urge over every player in the Milan midfielder with the exception of Nigel De Jong. Montolivo is a quality world class midfielder with enormous experience in midfield, Muntari has a different style. Emmanuelson’s experience from Ajax and the Premiership cannot march that of Essien. Andrea Poli has seen more game time since the start of the season and has got the support in his homeland but the mere fact that he has not been able to produce the result will push manager Seedorf to be more adventurous and start the Ghanaian ahead of him.
Trust Essien not to let his chance slip by.
In the Uefa Champions League where they face Spanish side Atletico Madrid, there will be a platform for Essien to show the world he has still got his quality.
Torino will be a maiden test on Saturday at the San Siro and le Bison is billed to steal the midfield and possess it till the end of the season.