JOHANNESBURG – Ghana legend Michael Essien may have had a successful stint in Europe but he concedes he’s open to a move to the Premier Soccer League before calling time on his football career.
The 36-year-old defensive midfielder, who’s currently on the books of Azerbaijan-based club Sabail FK, has had a glittering career that included spells with Chelsea, Real Madrid and AC Milan. However, it was with the Blues where Essien made a name for himself, winning the Premiership twice and coveted Uefa Champions League.
While it may be that he’s mostly used to European football having signed his professional contract with French side Lyon in 2003, Essien is also a household name in Africa - playing an integral role in the Black Stars’ resurgence over the years.
In the past few seasons, Richard Ofori, the Maritzburg United goalkeeper, has been the Ghanaian’s flag bearer in the PSL, inspiring the Team of Choice to retaining their top-flight status last term. However, Kaizer Chiefs recently added a Ghanaian to their roster, signing defensive midfielder James Kotei from Tanzanian-based side Simba Sports Club during the transfer window.
“SA is not bad, I would like to come here,” said Essien, who’s the global ambassador of beer brand Budweiser in their new partnership with the English Premier League and La Liga.
“You can never say never, I am keeping my options open. I love football, I love football ... I have played it my whole life. So, I am not thinking about retirement at all (for now).”
Having been knocked out of the recently-concluded Africa Cup of Nations in the quarter-finals by Tunisia, the Black Stars will be out to redeem themselves in the 2021 continental showpiece that will be held in Cameroon. However, they’ll have to pass through the gruelling qualifiers, meeting Bafana Bafana, Sudan and winner between Mauritius or Sao Tome e Principe.
The Black Stars will square off with Bafana in the opening round of the qualifiers in November. In the past Ghana have dominated the encounters, having played a huge role in ensuring the South Africans do not qualify for the 2006 Fifa World Cup in Germany. However, Essien is adamant that should the South Africans work their socks off, they’ll be forces to be reckoned with.
“I don’t know (why SA hasn’t exported many players). In football you can’t really explain what’s going wrong. On a personal level, I think they have to just keep pushing and working hard. Take their chances and see what happens,” Essien said.
“(However) I think they (Bafana) did well because they beat Egypt.”@Mihlalibaleka