Michael Essien names the two toughest players he faced in Premier League

Michael Essien and Paul Scholes battle for the ball during Chelsea's Premier League clash with Manchester United

Michael Essien named Paul Scholes as one of his toughest Premier League opponents (Picture: Getty)

Chelsea legend Michael Essien has picked out Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes as the two ‘toughest’ opponents he ever faced in the Premier League.

The Ghanian is regarded as one of the greatest African players to ever grace English football after spending nine trophy-laden years at Stamford Bridge.

Jose Mourinho beat off competition from Manchester United to land Essien in the summer of 2005 for a fee of £24.4million which was a record for Chelsea at the time. The transfer also made the midfielder the most expensive African footballer in history.

Michael Essien and Steven Gerrard during Chelsea's Premier League clash with Liverpool

Essien came close to joining Gerrard on Merseyside before completing a move to Chelsea (Picture: Getty)

Essien would go on to win two Premier League titles, four FA Cups, a League Cup and a Champions League during his time in west London and played with and against some of the finest players of his generation.

But Liverpool and Manchester United icons Gerrard and Scholes stand out above the rest when it comes to his trickiest opponents in England.

Asked to name the ‘toughest’ player he came up against during an Instagram Live this week, Essien answered: ‘I will always say that it’s between Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes to be honest.

‘Them two were quite tough! Not only good on the ball but they can tackle really hard, very strong as well.

‘They were quite tough but the Premier League back then was very tough.

‘Everywhere we went and everyone you come up against is tough so you have to try and be tough.’

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Essien admitted he came close to joining Gerrard at Liverpool and even met Gerard Houllier at the club’s training ground.

‘I had lot of offers [when playing for Bastia]. I was close to signing for Liverpool when Gerard Houllier was their coach,’ the ex-Ghana international, now playing for Sabail in the Azerbaijan Premier League, added.

‘I even went to Melwood to meet the coach. We had a talk and I returned to France but the offers were still coming.

‘PSG, Olympique Marseille et al, but I told Bastia I didn’t want to move and they also didn’t want to sell me at that time because they wanted me to stay for another year which was fine with me because I also didn’t want to leave the club.

‘So I stayed for another season, that’s my third year with the club.

‘Lyon were my favourite team when I went to France because they were winning everything.

‘I told my agent that if Lyon have come into the picture I’d like to join them.’

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