ESSIEN TO BEG LYON: LET ME JOIN THE BLUES Chelsea are willing to pay MICHAEL ESSIEN around £75,000-a-week, terms that he is aware of as he prepares to ask Lyon to let him go. The Ghanaian inernational is desperate to become Chelsea's first big-money buy for next season - and will plead with Lyon to let him go. He knows that Jose Mourinho wants him to add goals and flair to his midfield. The deal - first revealed by The SP four months ago - is on after Chelsea made an opening £15million offer for the powerful star of the two-times French champions.
And Essien has told friends that he wants to go now rather than wait for a year when Lyon have agreed to sell him in the summer of 2006. Essien, who speaks perfect English, has really taken a shine to the Chelsea move despite saying he would like to join Manchester United in the past. The brilliant young African will wait to see if Chelsea can agree a fee. His advisers fear Lyon will say 'no' even to £18m. If Lyon reject the approach then Essien is likely to ask for a transfer and head for Chelsea, although, according to rumours in Spain, Madrid could make a late move.
Meanwhile, Lyon could turn to ex-Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier to take over from coach Paul Le Guen, who quit last week.
Houllier is "flattered'' to be linked with a return to his homeland after a year out of work since he was axed at Anfield.
JOSE MOURINHO will offer Carlo Cudicini a new contract this week in a bid to keep him from the clutches of Manchester United.
The Blues boss said: "He knows we love him.''