Jose Mourinho is my 'daddy', says returning Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien

Ghana midfielder is back  n the fold at Chelsea  and claims his injury problems are behind him

Kuala Lumpur

When he arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Jose Mourinho introduced Michael Essien to the local press as “my son” and the player himself responded by using that slightly disconcerting “Daddy” nickname he has for his manager.

There is no doubting the strength of the relationship between Mourinho and the player he signed after his first year at the club for a then club record £24m. Under Mourinho, and in the years subsequent to his departure in September 2007, Essien developed into one of the most effective midfielders in world football. He came to epitomise the relentlessness of the modern Chelsea and if he looked weaker in recent years it was because he had set the bar so high.

Frozen out last season by Roberto Di Matteo, the 30-year-old joined Mourinho on loan at Real Madrid in September. In a dressing room that became increasingly hostile towards Mourinho last season, Essien was one of the few who remained steadfast loyal. Injuries may have robbed him of the stupendous power and stamina he once had in midfield but Mourinho still loves the man he says can play “anywhere, apart from striker or goalkeeper”.

Certainly there was no hiding the warmth that Mourinho has for Essien. The Chelsea manager said: “He’s a great man, he is loyal to me, he is loyal to Chelsea, he was loyal to Madrid. He is a very good player and I see him with special motivation. He went to Madrid because he was in a difficult situation here. He recovered his happiness and condition and played very important matches there.

“We all know that he is not a 20-year-old boy anymore. We all know he went through a very difficult period with his injury but he’s a fantastic player and the kind of player that we need in this profile of squad - a squad of many, many talented kids - to give us the right balance.”

On Wednesday night, Essien played his first game for Chelsea since pre-season last summer. The last competitive game he played for the club was the final league match of the 2011-2012 season against Blackburn Rovers. He was an unused substitute in the Champions League final of that season, a pity for him given how crucial he had been over the years for Chelsea on previous European nights.

It was Essien’s second cruciate ligament injury, in pre-season two years ago, that proved so debilitating. He was out of action until January and did not look the same player when he came back. But Mourinho sees a role for him as one of the two defensive midfielders, allowing the other to get forward, and potentially as cover at full-back.

Essien himself estimates he has had “eight or nine” operations on his knees but said that they are fine now. “My knees are not giving me any problems,” he said. “I just have to keep myself fit and get ready to do a good job for the team. My style hasn’t changed. I’m still the same.

“When you bump into me you can tell I am still as strong and keeping fit. When you have these injuries it’s hard to get back but I go with the flow. I don’t put pressure on myself or anything. I just listen to the doctors and once I’m fit and training I give everything.”

The mention of a collision was a direct reference to the incident on Wednesday when Essien flattened the Brazilian striker Cleiton Silva in Chelsea’s win in Bangkok. Mourinho went to the aid of the opposition player, helping him back to his feet with a reassuring pat on the back.

Essien said that his relationship with Mourinho remained strong. “We understand each other very well. He’s the Special One. He knows how to talk to his players and get the best out of them and it’s always easy to work with him if you understand him. I understand him. I know what he wants and I always deliver.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before