Toronto FC are among the MLS clubs reported to be targeting AC Milan’s Michael Essien, as the Canadian outfit line up potential big-name replacements for the unsettled Jermain Defoe.
MilanNews.it claims that the Columbus Crew and the Portland Timbers are also interested in the Ghana international, who is expected to leave the Italian giants as soon as this winter after falling to establish himself in the first-team.
The news comes just days after Essien switched representatives to USA-based group Clavijo Soccer Agency, operated by the son of former player and now-FC Dallas Technical director Fernando Clavijo, leading to suggestions that the ex-Chelsea midfielder is angling for a stateside switch.
The 31-year-old joined Milan from Chelsea on a free transfer last January, but has made just two starts in five appearances this season for a total of 226 minutes, looking a shadow of his former dominant self after the serious knee damage suffered in the summer of 2011.
While his contract is set to expire in the summer, the Serie A side are keen to get the under-performing veteran’s wages off their books as soon as possible, but there are said to be few potential European suitors, even with no transfer fee required.
With Defoe widely expected to return to England at some stage in January, after a tumultuous ending to his first season in Toronto, the club could use the finances freed up to make room for Essien’s arrival but, given his recent decline, it’s debatable whether that would be such a wise move for the franchise.