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Milan take Essien from Chelsea on free transfer

José Mourinho backed Michael Essien to "continue to play at a high level" after the 31-year-old Ghana midfielder left Chelsea FC to join AC Milan on a free transfer.

Michael Essien (right) in action against Arsenal earlier this season
Michael Essien (right) in action against Arsenal earlier this season ©Getty Images

José Mourinho thanked Michael Essien for "giving everything to the club" after allowing the Ghana midfielder to leave Chelsea FC for AC Milan.

Essien, 31, has joined the Rossoneri on a free transfer, ending a spell of more than eight years at Stamford Bridge, punctuated by a loan spell under Mourinho at Real Madrid CF last term. He has signed an 18-month deal with Milan, tying him to the club until June 2015.

A UEFA Champions League winner with the Blues in 2012, Essien started his career at SC Bastia in France before joining Olympique Lyonnais. He moved to west London in summer 2005. "To show Michael respect is to not stop him going," said Mourinho. "We would have been happy had he stayed because he is fantastic player for the team, but a great chance arrived for his future. I know he can continue to play at a high level and I wish him success and happiness in Italy and at the World Cup in Brazil."

Essien, who has won 55 caps for his country, said before signing: "I'm happy to be here. I'll do my best for the club and I hope to get playing immediately. I spoke with coach [Clarence] Seedorf two days ago and I can't wait to get started. I want to thank the president and the team and a special thank you to Mourinho who has allowed me to wear the Milan jersey."

New Milan coach Clarence Seedorf will oversee his first European game when the seven-time European champions face Club Atlético de Madrid in the UEFA Champions League round of 16. The first leg takes place in Italy on 19 February.

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