Michael Essien has opened up on how close he came to joining Manchester United only to be prevented by two former Chelsea team-mates combined.
United were leading the race to sign the Ghanaian throughout 2005 but it was Chelsea who eventually prevailed, shelling out £24.4million to make Essien their club-record signing after some quick work involving Jose Mourinho, future Chelsea ace Florent Malouda and Blues striker Didier Drogba.
Speaking to South African reporter Carol Tshabalala (via The Metro) Essien said: “My second year at Lyon, when we finished the season, I came back to start pre-season with them and I came back very happy to start pre-season.
“That’s when the other teams started coming in like Chelsea and Manchester United.
“At that point, I’d have loved to have joined United. But I was speaking with Jose every other day and he made It clear, very straight to me, that he wanted me to join Chelsea and there was only Chelsea that could pay the transfer fee at that time.
“It was not easy but I remember the first time I spoke to Jose. I went to Malouda’s house for a barbeque and then during the barbeque, Drogba called him and he and Drogba started speaking because they are very close and then Drogba asked him, ‘When you see Michael, whenever you see him, can you tell him Jose wants his number, Jose wants to talk to him?’ but then he said, ‘No, Michael is here, we’re having a barbeque!’.
“So he gave the phone to me and I started speaking to Drogba and that’s how we started. I passed on my number to him and he passed it on to Jose and that’s when everything started. It was a tough transfer saga.”
The Blues hero now plies his trade with Sabail in the Azerbaijan Premier League.