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Last Updated: Monday, 23 May, 2005, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Essien wins French award
Ghana's Michael Essien with his award
Ghana's Michael Essien is Player of the Year in France
Ghana and Lyon midfielder Michael Essien has been voted Player of the Year by France's National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP).

Essien, whose Lyon side won the French Championship two weeks ago, claimed the prize ahead of his team-mate Juninho Pernambucano, Rennes striker Alexander Frei and Auxerre's Ivorian playmaker Bonaventure Kalou.

The 22-year-old succeeds last year's winner Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast.

"I'm so happy, I really didn't expect it," he said after the ceremony at the Olympia in Paris.

"It's a wonderful reward at the end of a great season, but I'm also sparing a thought for 'Juni' (Juninho Pernambucano).

"He deserved it as well, and it's just a shame we both couldn't have been selected.

"Since I've been in France I've always seen strikers win it, so I'm happy that for once the award has gone to a defensive midfielder."

Ghanaian-born France legend Marcel Desailly was full of praise for Essien.

"Even during my six years at Milan, I never played like that! He moves at a thousand miles an hour, it's incredible."

The Lyon star has of course been strongly linked with Desailly's old club Chelsea, but Essien refused to be drawn on speculation surrounding his future.

"I can't say much about it, I don't know yet," he explained.

Both Essien and Kalou were also included the UNFP's Ligue 1 team of the year.

The Ivory Coast's Bakary Kone of Lorient won the player's Player of the Year for the second division.




SEE ALSO
Ghana to miss two key players
14 Mar 05 |  African
Essien a wanted man
25 Feb 05 |  African
Essien turns down PSG
02 Jul 03 |  African



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