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Last Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Essien saga nears completion
By Chris Bevan

Michael Essien

The summer's longest-running transfer saga is over at last.

Michael Essien has signed for Chelsea - almost three months after the Blues made their first attempt to sign the 22-year-old Lyon midfielder.

Chelsea's initial offer was rejected on 11 May - but manager Jose Mourinho did not give up.

He had bids of 10m, 16.75m, 18m, 21m and 21m plus Tiago turned down before eventually agreeing a fee for 26m.

BBC Sport looks back at the twists and turns Chelsea's pursuit took.

11 MAY

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas:
Chelsea came up with an offer and left with nothing. I am ready to renegotiate existing contracts but nothing else.

13 JUNE

Lyon dismiss a proposed swap deal involving Chelsea's Didier Drogba joining the French champions with Essien going the other way.

Aulas:
If chief executive Peter Kenyon proposes a deal because Chelsea have signed Eto'o or Adriano, I'd listen.

But I don't believe in Father Christmas.

14 JUNE

Essien's agent Fabien Piveteau:
The problem is that Chelsea want him but, for now, the bid is too small for Lyon.

Lyon want big, big money for the player. The problem for Chelsea is when they arrive for discussions with another club the price is doubled.

20 JUNE

Aulas:
Chelsea, who are the only club openly interested in Essien, are putting quite strong pressure on us but we are going to do all we can to keep him.

England have won the Olympics but Chelsea will not get Michael Essien.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas (8 August)

We have refused a bid of 16.75m as Essien is worth much, much more.

He is a jewel and one of the best players in Europe. That's why Chelsea are so interested in him but they must put in a price that is worth the best European players.

I saw that Chelsea had made interesting offers to other players, who are playing with teams on an equal level with Lyon.

For now, Michael stays with us, his heart is with Lyon, he wants to stay and we hope he will be with us next season.

5 JULY

The deal looks off after Lyon decide Essien is not for sale.

Piveteau:
The chairman of Lyon wants to keep the player for one more year. It's not a problem because he's a young player and Lyon is a good club.

If it is possible to leave for a big club in England then that is better, but the problem is it is not Michael deciding and it is not me.

16 JULY

Essien breaks his silence to reveal he wants to join Chelsea.

Michael Essien:
I have the chairman's word that he will do everything to find an agreement with Chelsea as soon as possible.

I did not take part in the talks. It's up to the two clubs now to agree. I have made my choice. I want to go to Chelsea.

I have made the directors understand I can no longer stay at Lyon. My decision is firm and definitive.

The chairman knows he can't keep a player against his will. He and manager Gerard Houllier understand that.

20 JULY

Lyon reveal their new asking price as Essien's hopes rise that the move will happen.

Aulas:
Forty-five million euros (31m). That's the figure. We'll sell Michael for the price of Steven Gerrard. They're going to pay up or my name's not Aulas.

Essien:
I think the transfer will be made.

I am convinced that I will go to Chelsea but in the meantime I am experiencing difficult times.

I can't wait until everything is over. I also spoke with Didier Drogba and he wants me to come.

Peter Kenyon
Kenyon remained confident Chelsea would sign Essien

Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon:
Lyon don't want to lose a player of his quality but we want to acquire a player of that quality and Michael has made it quite plain that he would like to join Chelsea and seize that opportunity.

28 JULY

Lyon are now believed to want 32m plus a player in exchange for Essien. Chelsea offer only 21m, but Aulas still agrees to meet the Blues' owner Roman Abramovich.

Aulas:
Chelsea shouldn't take French clubs for fools.

Michael is worth between 45 and 50 million euros (31-35million).

Because time has been wasted if we are to recruit if Essien leaves us now, I estimate that our player will leave for 45 million euros, while bringing in one Chelsea player.

Rather than unceasingly calling the player to make it all the more sad, Mourinho would do better to call me directly. Chelsea will learn to know me.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho:
He comes or he doesn't come. If he comes, great - if he doesn't come it's not a drama.

But I need to know. One more option, a great option. But one more.

If we get Essien we can say we have improved every area of the team. If we don't, we still have good options.

1 AUGUST

Aulas:
The longer Chelsea take to make up their minds, the more exposed they are to a bid from another English club who have lost a key midfielder.

Essien is a bit mixed-up. Manchester United are after the player as well.

It's annoying to lose one of the best players in Europe but he has not gone yet.

We could find a compromise to ensure he does not move until next year.

Manchester want him just as much. This Essien story does not weary me.

6 AUGUST

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Mourinho was running out of patience over the Essien affair

Fresh talks are planned after Chelsea's offer of 21m plus Tiago is turned down.

Piveteau:
We hope a solution is found because Michael absolutely wants to leave.

There will be more discussions between Peter Kenyon and Lyon. Michael wants to leave and play for Chelsea, so we are hoping this can be finalised.

Aulas
The new bid still does not correspond to what we wish even if Chelsea have made the effort to include in the negotiation a player we're interested in.

8 AUGUST

Aulas is to meet up with Abramovich but is adamant Essien will be staying put

Aulas:
Roman Abramovich asked to meet me. No problem but it will be just for fishing.

The Essien case is closed and he will remain at Lyon.

England have won the Olympics but Chelsea will not get Michael Essien.

They thought we were just country bumpkins with our berets and a baguette in the pocket. That's not the way it works at Lyon.

10 AUGUST

Aulas now feels Essien will sign a new contract with Lyon.

Aulas:
We are going to make concrete the contract proposition made and accepted by his agent, which is very rewarding for the player.

It comprises not only a major pay rise but also an extension of his contract until 2009.

I will invite Michael and his agent to come and see me in St Tropez. This business with Chelsea is finished.

12 AUGUST
After a change of heart from Aulas, the move is back on.

Aulas:
We have talked about Michael's situation in great detail and we have decided it's better if we let him go.

It's with great regret that he will leave Lyon. We wanted to keep him but we can't make him stay.

15 AUGUST

Lyon announce that Essien will be leaving for 26m.

Aulas:
It is a wrench but for the club this is a good deal, the transfer should be superior to that of Drogba.

Lyon official Bernard Lacombe:
Financially it is an extraordinary operation. It is one third of our budget and it represents the entire budget of some Ligue 1 clubs.

16 AUGUST

Essien's arrival at Stamford Bridge is delayed because the relevant paperwork does not arrive in time.

Lyon manager Gerard Houllier:
We are forced to let him leave even if we didn't want to but when a player doesn't want to play for a club anymore you have to finally open the door.

19 AUGUST

Michael Essien signs for Chelsea in a 24.4m move from Lyon.

Chelsea statement:
Chelsea can confirm it has now reached an agreement with Lyon for the transfer of Michael Essien.

Michael has also agreed personal terms and passed a medical.

The transfer is a club record for Chelsea and we would all like to welcome Michael to the club.




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