Essien Crosses Fingers For First African Award

Three top African players � Michael Essien, Samuel Eto�o and Didier Drogba � are contesting for the coveted African footballer of the year 2009 award. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) organises the annual event that is taking place in the west African nation of Ghana on Thursday. Below is the profile of the BBC's African Best Player of 2006: Full Name: Michael Essien Nationality: Ghanaian Date of Birth: 03 /12/1982 Position: Midfielder Current club: Chelsea (England) Michael Essien is undoubtedly one of the world's best midfielders. He began his football career right after senior high school at the St. Augustine College in the central region of Ghana. The 27-year-old became known as a hot prospect during the 1999 U-17 World Championship in New Zealand. He moved to France in 2001, joining Bastia from Liberty Professionals, and reached the French Cup final in his debut season before joining Lyon, where he won two Championship medals. He was voted the 2005 Player of the Year by France's National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP). He became the most expensive African player when the Blues snatched him for an enticing �24.4 million from Lyon at a time when Manchester United were also showing a serious interest. The midfielder had his debut cap for Ghana at the 2002 African Nations Cup and helped the Black Stars reach their maiden World Cup during Germany 2006. His career was plagued with protracted injuries in late 2008 to 2009 but he returned with a bang to propel Ghana to qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals. The �Bison�, as he is nicknamed in the English press, is admired for his power, drive and relentless work-rate. He is always tough with his tackles and possesses an incredible shot from distance. Essien was on top of his game in most parts of 2009 and helped his club Chelsea with some spectacular goals, especially against Arsenal in the Premier League and in the 2009 Champions League semi-final against Barcelona. The midfielder was nominated for the FIFA World Player of the Year award on three occasions and also a three-time nominee for the coveted Ballon d'Or. He won the 2006 BBC African Footballer of the Year award and might pull offa surprise at the 2009 Glo-CAF African Best Player awards.