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09.08.2005 Football Transfers

Essien saga over as Lyon reject Chelsea offer

By GNA
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LYON, France, Aug 9 (AFP/GNA) - Ghanaian midfielder Michael Essien will be staying with French champions Lyon after the club's president Jean-Michel Aulas announced the long-running transfer saga with Chelsea had finally ended.

Essien, at 22 years old considered one of the brightest midfield hopes in Europe, had been a Chelsea target all summer and as late as Sunday night both clubs were still see-sawing over a possible transfer. Aulas declared after Sunday's deadline - which he gave to Chelsea - that Essien would be staying, only to change his mind minutes later when informed that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich wanted a personal meeting. However that meeting never took place, and it looks like Aulas's patience has run out.

Having rejected Chelsea's biggest offer of 32-million-euros (21-million-pounds) in the hope he would get 45 million euros (32 million pounds) as well as a player in exchange, Aulas seemed only too happy to see the saga come to an end.

"England may have the Olympics but Chelsea will not get Michael Essien," Aulas said on the club's website www.olweb.fr. "Michael Essien is, and will remain, a Lyon player.

"We are going to seal the contract offer made and accepted by his agent, which the player will find very rewarding as it comprises a major pay rise as well as an extension of his contract until 2009.

"I will invite Michael and his agent to come and see me in St Tropez.

"This business (with Chelsea) is finished and there will be no meeting on Tuesday (today)."

It remains to be seen how Essien, who has not played for Lyon so far this season, reacts following his declarations a few weeks ago when he said his Lyon days were over.

However Aulas was clear about the midfielder's status within a team which has won the past four French league titles and for the past three years has finished in the final phases of the Champions League. Aulas added: "I've said from the start of this that Michael was never for sale and that we wanted him to be an integral part of the team with (coach) Gerard Houllier.

"I don't have to remind anybody that the team will be better with him than without him."

Aulas hit out at Chelsea, who he claimed turned up at the club unannounced then turned up at another meeting while Aulas was on his holidays without Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich after the Russian had been scheduled to attend.

"On July 28 (Chelsea chief executive) Peter Kenyon, without any warning, telephoned to say he was sitting in the restaurant across from our offices.

"I was busy and asked (club official) Marino Faccioli to go and meet him. Kenyon made a written offer, which was certainly an increase on their earlier offer but it was still far off our estimation of Michael. "After that I agreed to meet Roman Abramovich and Peter Kenyon at Saint Tropez while I was on holiday. We met on August 5, and to my big surprise Roman Abramovich didn't turn up.

"The only people there was Peter Kenyon and George Mendes, the agent of (Chelsea coach) Jose Mourinho!

"Our discussion didn't lead to much and I felt they had lost interest in Michael, so I gave them a deadline of August 7 to come up with a final, improved offer."

It seems Aulas will go down as one of the few club presidents to reject the overtures of Chelsea, who many feel practically bought their way to success last season when they won the English Premiership for the first time in 50 years.

Chelsea have spent millions buying the world's best players since former oil tycoon Abramovich bought the club - however their final offer was not good enough for Aulas, who believes Essien is on the path to greatness.

"Since everything will quickly go back to normal, and that Michael is a great player I only see good things ahead for him and for Lyon," said Aulas.

"In my dream, I see him scoring a header in the Champions League final at the Stade de France against Chelsea, and I see him winning the Ballon d'Or (European Football of the Year award)."

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