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15.08.2005 Football News

Lyon players sad at Essien's move to Chelsea

By Reuters

LYON, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Olympique Lyon players say they are sad to see Michael Essien go to Chelsea but accept the Ghana midfielder needs a new challenge.

"It's sad to see him go, but for him it's extraordinary and we all wish him good luck," said defender Sylvain Monsoreau.

The French champions, who resisted pressure from the wealthy London club for weeks, were expected to confirm a deal with the English champions later on Monday.

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said on Sunday an agreement had been reached and only a few details still needed to be sorted out.

Aulas and his players realise they are losing a special player whose role was decisive in Lyon's campaigns to the last two French titles.

"Lyon existed before Michael Essien and will exist after him but it's true that we're losing a fantastic player," said defender Anthony Reveillere.

"It's his choice to leave and you have to respect that."

The 22-year-old Essien had said he was desperate to join Chelsea and no longer wanted to play for Lyon.

LIKELY RECORD

He has not played a competitive match for Lyon this season, with coach Gerard Houllier saying he could not select a player whose mind was not on the game.

A powerful defensive midfielder, Essien won the Ligue 1 Player of the Year award last season. Houllier has said he regards him as being in the same league as Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Chelsea's Frank Lampard.

No figures were immediately available for the likely deal but Aulas hinted it would be a record for a transfer involving a Ligue 1 player.

Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba set the current record when he left Olympique Marseille for Chelsea for 37.5 million euros ($46.44 million) in July last year.

"It will be more than for Drogba," Aulas said.

Lyon, chasing an unprecedented fifth successive French title, will now concentrate on trying to persuade inspirational Brazil midfielder Juninho to extend his contract while looking for a top striker.

"We will do what we have to make him (Juninho) stay," said Aulas. "We need him.

"Contacts have been made but it will be difficult," Aulas said when asked about the prospect of a world-class forward joining Lyon to make up for Essien's departure.

Aulas previously said he was interested in England's Michael Owen, who is expected to leave Real Madrid, as well as in Liverpool's Czech striker Milan Baros.

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