Sports Features of Sat, 24 Mar 201823
The end beckons for Michael Essien after Persib snub
The biggest story in Ghanaian football this week has been the news, from Indonesia, that Michael Essien has been deemed surplus to requirements by Persib Bandung.
It is the sort of headline that few Ghanaian football fans ever thought they'd see, as one of the nation's all-time greatest reaches a new career low.
With Indonesian clubs only able to register three foreign players, Essien has found himself on the outside, having made 29 appearances and scored five goals for the Bandung Tigers.
"I kind of enjoyed my first season there," Essien told the Premier League Today programme. "It's not an easy place.
"Everything is so different, nothing compared to Europe at all, and we travel so far for games so it's not easy but they are very fanatical about football.
"Almost every game the stadium is almost full, they make so much noise so I kind of enjoyed my first year there."
Ghanaian players wandering in ignominious circumstances in low-level leagues towards the end of their careers is nothing new.
Anthony Yeboah spent the final years of a magnificent career in Saudi Arabia, while Abedi Pele rounded up his in the United Arab Emirates in 2000.
Essien's latest humiliation, however, represents a steep fall from grace considering he featured for Panathinaikos as recently as 2016.
Before that, The Bison had also represented the likes of Real Madrid, AC Milan and Olympique Lyonnais.
He's best known for an injury-mottled nine-year spell at Chelsea, where he won two Premier League titles, four FA Cups and, memorably, the Champions League in 2012.
In his prime, he was one of the world's finest midfielders but, now 35, has been displaced by 26-year-old Argentine forward Jonathan Bauman.
It's a far cry from the status Essien enjoyed in his heyday. He was the catalyst for huge Ghanaian interest in Chelsea - boosting the Blues' brand in West Africa - and became the figure head of an exciting Black Stars side.
Essien was part of the Ghana squad that reached the Round of 16 at the 2006 World Cup - their first appearance on the grandest stage of all - and became a reference point for Black Stars midfielders.
The beloved midfielder is one of the last of that fine generation of Ghanaian players to still feature in active competition, and it remains to be seen whether he'll now follow the likes of John Paintsil and Stephen Appiah into coaching.
When the Bison does hang up his boots, he can reflect upon an unforgettable career, and don't expect that end to be too far away.
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