'Stop the bus! I'm off to Real Madrid' - Essien on last-gasp transfer
Michael Essien remembers the frantic nature of his move from Chelsea to the LaLiga giants to be reunited with José Mourinho.
It was 1 September 2012. Michael Essien was coming in to replace Lass Diarra at Real Madrid. It all happened in the last few hours before the transfer market closed and provided the Spanish giants with the Ghanaian player, then at Chelsea, for a season to replace the Frenchman, who left for Russian side Anzhi. Essien was a request of then manager José Mourinho, who had ensured Chelsea paid Lyon 29 million euros for his services in 2005. The respect between player and manager was mutual and the midfielder revealed more about the move on Instagram to South African sports journalist Carol Tshabalala.
Essien on Real Madrid move
"I was with Chelsea in Monaco for the Super Cup match and a strange number called me,” Essien began.“I didn't want to answer it but my cousin, who was in the room with me that day, told me to pick it up.
“The number kept calling so I picked up. As soon as I said hello and another hello came from the other end, I realised who was on the phone so I told my cousin, ‘it's Jose Mourinho’.”
"We started talking and he said ‘I hear you're on your way to Arsenal’ but I told him it wasn’t true. I had not heard anything from Arsenal.
“Then he told me not to go to Arsenal and to come with him. I asked him where and he said Real Madrid, so I told him I was ready.”
The transaction was closed on that last day of the market and the Ghanaian remembers how frantic it was, almost like a movie.
"It was the last day of the transfer market and he asked for my agent's number. I told him I was ready even if it meant having to leave in the midst of the Super Cup game. He said Lassana Diarra was supposed to move to Russia so if he accepted that then they would process my transfer and I told him okay, I'm waiting, just chilling in my room.
“He said to give him a couple hours, he’d call back, and I said cool.
"My agent called me after a few hours and I told him what happened. I told him that I spoke with José about moving to Madrid and I told him that I had given José his number. He told me to relax because Madrid would come.
“Lass accepted the move to Russia, so we had to then change our plans because we were about to leave the hotel for the stadium to play against Atlético [in the Super Cup]. Real Madrid were there with my agent and I was in the bus as we were about to leave for the stadium. I was leaving too but my agent asked me to come back to the hotel. He said he had to send a fax to some people so I had to shout at the bus driver like a mad man to stop.
“All my teammates were looking at me like, ‘Michael what's going on?’. I told them I needed to get off the bus and ‘I’ll see you guys later’.
STOP THE BUS!! STOP THE BUS!!
"So anyway, the bus stopped and I went back to the hotel to wait for my agent. My agent came and sent the fax and thankfully everything got finalised on time. I told him I had to go to the stadium because at least I had to pick up my boots.
“We got to the stadium and they had finished the match. I joined my teammates on the pitch but some of them had heard the news that I was going to Madrid. Others asked what was going on so obviously I had to tell them. I explained to them that this deal came up and I had to return to the hotel to finish the paperwork. So in coming back to pick up my boots I had to say goodbye to them.
"After the ceremony we went back to the dressing room where I properly wished them goodbye. I just took my shin pad and boots, and I said goodbye to everyone including Roman Abramovich. He wished me good luck and then I went back to the hotel. The next day I was on a plane to Madrid.
"I went to Madrid with just my boots, shin pads, one [pair of] jeans and one shirt and my Chelsea tracksuit. I got to the airport Jose was there waiting for me. He greeted me and I went to the hospital to undergo my medical and the next day I started training."
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