What does Essien's return to Chelsea mean for Mikel?

Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien spent last season on loan at Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho.

Now that the ‘special one’ has returned to take the reigns at Stamford Bridge, the 30-year-old Ghana international may well get his opportunity to reacquaint himself the regular first-team football with the Blues.

Essien made just 14 Premier League appearances for Chelsea in 2011/12 before being loaned out to join his former manager Mourinho in the Spanish capital where he 34 appearances in total for Los Blancos last season.

A strong and physical presence in midfield is something Chelsea lacked somewhat this term under interim boss Rafael Benitez who ended up deploying centre-back David Luiz in a defensive midfield role oftentimes to provide more protection to the Blues’ backline.

Luiz’ future at Stamford Bridge is being wildly speculated over following Mourinho’s unveiling as boss last week – the Brazilian defender is heavily linked with interest from La Liga champions Barcelona as reports claim that Mourinho is less than impressed with his style of defending

However, Mourinho may opt to let the 26-year-old go if the right offer came in, especially given that he has Essien following him back to the Bridge from the Bernabeu this summer.

The real question is what does all this mean for Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel?

The 26-year-old Nigerian featured on a regular basis for the Blues last term (38 appearances in total) and Benitez seemed content to alternate between him and Luiz in that holding midfield role alongside the likes of Frank Lampard, Ramires, and Oscar who tend to play as either central or attacking midfielders.

Whilst Blues fans may have forgotten about Essien following his long spell out injured – another cruciate ligament rupture that kept him out for 6 months - Mourinho hadn’t and I wonder whether Mikel may now find replace Essien as the forgotten man.

Even without accounting for potential incomings in the transfer window, Mourinho already has a wealth of midfield options at his disposal. Mikel was one of Mourinho’s own signings, however, back in a controversial deal that had to be resolved by FIFA in 2006.

Mikel was just 18 then and Chelsea had just signed Essien the summer previous as an intended long-term replacement for Claude Makelele who left two years later in 2008.

By then Essien was 25 years of age and was just hitting the peak of his powers. Mikel, entering that late-twenties phase of his career now may find his path to regular first-team football blocked once again as it was by Essien back in 2006 under Jose Mourinho.

image: © sonyds

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