Born on 3 December 1982 in Ghana, Jose Mourinho used the word 'multifunctional' when Michael signed for Chelsea from Lyon in August 2005, and the reported £24.4 million price tag reflected this versatility.
Comfortable in central midfield, over the years he has also played at right-back, in the centre of defence and as a right winger.
After a low-key start to his Chelsea career, which saw a period of adaptation to what referees would accept as legitimate tackles, Essien was voted 2007 Player of the Year by supporters, recognising not just steam-train performances in midfield but also his ability to provide solutions to a multitude of problems elsewhere.
He followed up an outstanding performance in central defence during a clean sheet 2007 FA Cup Final display with his selection at right-back in the Champions League Final a year later, picked ahead of two specialists in the position.
Memorable goals are part of the Essien repertoire. His equaliser against Arsenal in December 2006 was voted that campaign's Chelsea Goal of the Season and was nearly matched by a charge forward and angled drive in Valencia that sent the Blues into the 2007 Champions League semi-final. Then came the 25-yard left-footed volley that almost eliminated Barcelona from Europe in 2009.
That sensational strike came just two months after he had returned from a damaged cruciate ligament sustained on international duty which had kept him sidelined for six months.
Within days he had scored both in Europe and the league, and Michael's short season continued as he put in a trademark dominating performance against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, and the season would end there on a high with Everton beaten 2-1 in the Final.
Major injury struck again in 2009/10, and again on national service.
New manager Carlo Ancelotti was able to rotate his midfield regularly, meaning Essien was in and out a little in the opening couple of months.
He fired home from distance against Blackburn in late October as we won 5-0, then dominated Bolton twice in four days and finally providing the effective barrier that prevented Man United from scoring at the Bridge.
Michael hit another two, the first time he had done so for Chelsea, against Wolves in November, his first a header and his second another from outside the area that wriggled under the goalkeeper.
He was imperious alongside Mikel against Arsenal at the Emirates, and scored against APOEL in the Champions League before succumbing to a torn hamstring.
The damage kept him out until January, by which time he had joined up with Ghana at the African Cup of Nations, but after playing 45 minutes against Ivory Coast, he broke down in training with a fresh knee problem.
Michael underwent surgery at the end of January, but complications meant he would not return before the end of the campaign, forced to spend the Double-winning celebrations, and the World Cup, on the sidelines.
He returned fully fit for 2010/11 and started excellently, scoring three in two games against West Ham and Zilina, and amply plugging the gap left by the departures of Michael Ballack, Joe Cole and Deco. A needless injury-time red card after heading the only goal of the game against Fulham brought an impressive run to an end, and following his return from suspension the midfielder struggled to dominate games in the same way.
Despite that Essien still clocked up 33 league appearances, taking him past the 200-game mark for the club, but disaster struck once more on the first day of pre-season training under new manager Andre Villas-Boas, when further knee damage was sustained, expected to keep him out for a further six months.
Ahead of schedule, the Ghanaian returned in a reserve game against West Brom in early January, before a 17-minute appearance against Sunderland at the Bridge a few days later.
A string of substitute cameo roles followed as he sought to regain full fitness, before his first start of the season, and 90 minutes, against Manchester United in early February.
In the second half of the campaign, Essien struggled to regain the level of consistency in his play which had been his trademark for so long, and had to be content featuring mainly from the substitutes bench.
He was an unused substitute in both the FA Cup and Champions League Finals. On August transfer deadline day 2012 he rejoined Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, moving to Spain on a loan lasting one season.
Michael played his first full 90 minutes for Real Madrid in a 2-0 away win at Rayo Vallecano, while also featuring in the games against both Manchester City and Barcelona.
Essien scored his first goal for the Spanish side in their 4-0 win against Real Zaragoza in November 2012 at the Bernabeu, finishing smartly after being put clean through on goal.
Over the course of the season he featured regularly, playing at both right-back and in his more familiar midfield role. He played in the Champions League semi-final defeat against Borussia Dortmund and was full-back in the Copa del Rey final defeat against local rivals Atletico. His total of appearances for Real Madrid in all competitions was 30 with two goals scored including one against Osasuna in his and Mourinho's final game there.
Michael grew up near Accra, capital of his homeland, and the city that also gave the world Marcel Desailly.
Unlike the former Chelsea captain, Michael remained in Africa into adulthood, beginning his club football at Liberty Professionals.
His profile was raised by a third-placed finish for Ghana in the Under 17 World Cup which led to a trial at Manchester United, but he eventually signed for French side Bastia.
At first he was used to fill a variety of positions across the defence but could not hold down a regular place. Then injury left a vacancy in midfield and Michael never looked back.
Bastia reached the French Cup Final in 2002 and the following summer he made the move to league champions Lyon for 7.8 million euro.
He was voted Player of the Year in France while at the club and shone as Lyon became one the Champions League's most feared teams, but he made no secret of his desire to move to the Premier League.
Michael arrived at Chelsea a full international, and has taken his international appearances to over 50 during his time at Stamford Bridge.
He represented his country at the 2006 World Cup, their first appearance at the tournament, and was immensely proud to play in the 2008 African Nations as part of the host team, though Ghana eventually finished third.
In late 2008 he sustained his cruciate ligament injury while playing for Ghana, and his most recent long-term knee problem also came on international duty at the 2010 African Nations, where he broke down in training and did not recover in time to take part in Africa's first World Cup in the summer. He spent over a year away from the international stage to ensure a full receovery but with a Chelsea season under his belt, he announced in May 2010 that he was once more available to play for Ghana.
>>Click here to visit Essien's official website.