Michael Essien has lifted the lid on Liverpool’s audacious failed swoop for him during his spell with former Ligue 1 outfit Bastia.
The 37-year-old midfielder, and long-standing Chelsea servant, attracted interest from a host of European clubs after emerging into the limelight in France during the early years of his career.
According to Essien, he had even visited Melwood, Liverpool’s training complex, to hold talks with Gerard Houllier – but turned down the move and later joined Chelsea in 2005.
Essien spent nine successful years at Stamford Bridge, winning the Champions League, two Premier League titles, four FA Cups and a League Cup before leaving in 2014.
But when Liverpool came calling, Essien instead opted to remain at Bastia despite jetting to England to hold talks with the Anfield club.
‘I had lot of offers [when I was at Bastia]. I was close to signing for Liverpool when Gerard Houllier was their coach,’ Essien revealed in an interview on Instagram Live.
‘I even went to Melwood to meet the coach. We had a talk and I returned to France but the offers were still coming. PSG, Olympique Marseille et al, but I told Bastia I didn’t want to move and they also didn’t want to sell me at that time because they wanted me to stay for another year which was fine with me because I also didn’t want to leave the club.
‘So I stayed for another season, that’s my third year with the club.
‘Lyon joined the three aforementioned clubs to enquire about me but I thought it was too early to move to England. That was why I joined Lyon and later moved to Chelsea under Mourinho [in 2005].
‘Lyon were my favourite team when I went to France because they were winning everything. I told my agent that if Lyon have come into the picture I’d like to join them.’
After three years with Bastia, Essien joined Lyon in 2003 – and won the Ligue 1 title with them in 2004 and 2005.
However, the ex-Real Madrid and AC Milan star admitted that he was presented with a transfer dilemma before moving to Lyon – with PSG having also made their interest official.
Essien added: ‘PSG were then serious about signing me to the extent that they made an offer. I was back home at that time and the call came that PSG had made a bid for me. It was even on national television that I had signed for PSG, which I had not because I was still in Ghana.
‘There were a lot of controversies going on between the board and my agent so when I went back to Bastia, we met with the board members and the president, and I told them I’d prefer to join Lyon although I liked Paris.
‘I was really caught between PSG and Lyon but my preference was always Lyon. I had then spoken to the president and their coach. I gave them my word that when I return from my holidays in Ghana, I’ll do everything to sign for them but It was not easy.’
Essien joined Azerbaijani side Sabail in March 2019, in a deal which also sees him coach their U19 team.