ESSIEN: FOR CLUB AND COUNTRY
Fresh from helping his nation qualify for the World Cup in Brazil next summer, Michael Essien has been speaking to the official Chelsea website about his hopes for the months ahead.
The Ghanaian played the full 90 minutes in the Black Stars' 2-1 defeat to Egypt on Tuesday evening, but, with a resounding advantage from the first leg, progression to Brazil was comfortably achieved 7-3 on aggregate.
Essien admits he is thrilled to be heading to another World Cup - the midfielder having also appeared at the 2006 edition in Germany - not least because injury forced him to miss out on Ghana's memorable run to the quarter-finals in South Africa in 2010.
'It feels great. The most important thing for me was to help the team to qualify,' Essien stressed.
'I took a few years off and I decided to go back, and now I'm very happy that I did and I'm very happy for the team. I don't know what is going to happen from now until next year, but I'll try to keep fit and we'll see what happens.
'When you look around I'm one of the oldest players in the team so I think I can help the younger guys a little bit. When I speak they listen which is good for the team. We'll all go there and do our best.'
Much had been made prior to the match about the atmosphere that the Ghanaians would face in Cairo, in light of recent political events in Egypt, but our midfielder says there were no issues in the end and paid tribute to the travelling support.
'It was a really good atmosphere. We didn't have as much time to celebrate as we would have liked because of all the problems going on but where we were was safe. There were lots of Ghana fans there who went back after the game and their support in the stadium really helped us.'
Essien spent last season on loan at Real Madrid under the management of Jose Mourinho, playing 30 times during his time in Spain. When asked about how he has settled back into life at Stamford Bridge, where he is playing fewer games for the Blues than he is used to, the 30-year-old's answer is unequivocal.
'Of course I'm loving being back at Chelsea. I'm not worried about my situation, not getting many games. It doesn't bother me at all when it comes to my career,' Essien said.
'It's the manager's decision and I have always respected that. We're on good terms. I make myself available any time he needs me. I keep on training, I keep on being fit and so I'm always ready to go and work for the team.'
Essien's next appearance in the blue of Chelsea will be his 250th for the club since he joined in the summer of 2005. He can't resist a smile when told of this upcoming landmark, even if his focus remains on what lies ahead.
'Wow. That's quite nice. I don't really look back at how many games I've played to be honest. I'm the kind of guy that once I've finished a game it's gone, and then I look forward to the next game, but it will be a great achievement I must say.'
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