Blues extend Michael Essien’s contract

Guangzhou, July 22:

Chelsea announced a fresh five-year deal for midfielder Michael Essien today as the club’s new era began to take shape. The Ghana international became the third player in a week to commit to Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team after Wayne Bridge and goalkeeper Petr Cech.

British media reported that the deal was worth a £20 million with Essien banking £80,000 a week. Brazilian coach Scolari hailed the 25-year-old, who has scored 14 goals in 143 appearances since 2005.

“I have not been here long but it is clear to me that Michael Essien is one of the best midfield players in the world,” Scolari said. Scolari is busy assembling a top-class squad to realise billionaire owner Roman Abramovich’s expectations.

He has already snapped up Deco and Jose Boswinga, who played under him at Portugal, and Chelsea are also chasing Real Madrid sharp-shooter Robinho. However, they have denied a staggering $238 million bid for AC Milan’s Kaka and said negotiations had stalled.

Chelsea on Monday off-loaded midfielder Claude Makelele and defender Khalid Boulahrouz on free transfers. Hernan Crespo has also left on a free transfer and Steve Sidwell was sold to Aston Villa, while Shaun Wright-Phillips is being courted by Portsmouth.

Transfer speculation also continues to swirl around striker Didier Drogba, who is missing the pre-season tour through injury, and midfielder Frank Lampard.

Scolari, a World Cup-winning coach with Brazil, will be in no doubt about Roman Abramovich’s ambitions after becoming Chelsea’s third manager in the past year.