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16.08.2005 Football News

"l regret having to let Essien leave" -Lyon coach

Raymond Yeboah

Lyon midfielder Michael Essien will become a Chelsea player on Tuesday, the French champions have announced. The 22-year-old Ghanaian will move for £26million and will sign his contract with the London club in the next 24 hours, provided he passes a medical.

Lyon transfer supremo Bernard Lacombe said on club's official website: "We have reached an agreement with Chelsea and the club will get 38 million euros with Chelsea paying the expenses for the transfer.

"It's an important sum of money of the same size that was paid for (Zinedine) Zidane or (David) Beckham.

"Michael will have his medical with Chelsea on Tuesday and in the aftermath will sign his contract, and the 38 million euros will be paid."

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas finally admitted on Sunday night that Essien would leave.

All that remained unresolved were minor details, he said, and with the confirmation of a fee being agreed, the main stumbling block looks to have been removed.

"We met the player and effectively he wants to leave," said Lacombe. "He wants to play in England. We could have offered him more (money) but nothing could be done, he had already decided.

"The president saw the players, the staff and he took counsel. And even if he (Aulas) was opposed to his departure he had to resolve the situation."

Aulas had fought off several attempts by the Blues to sign the highly-rated Essien, who is considered by Aulas one of the top six midfielders in Europe.

The player has not featured in any of Lyon's three Ligue 1 matches this season as the saga has rumbled on.

Aulas had been prepared to give Essien a major pay rise, but finally gave up after being given no encouragement.

Aulas, who claims to be heartbroken at the prospect of losing the player, said: "I notice for two months we have paid a player that doesn't play and, moreover, who sulks, even seeming desperate that he is not in England already.

"I also noticed our fans couldn't stand that situation with more and more difficulties. The shareholders also asked if it was not better to get the benefits of that transfer.

"We have the feeling we can definitely not keep a player if he wants to play somewhere else.

"Do the contracts still have a meaning? The right solution would have been to not let him leave. Michael Essien took the problem in the wrong way for two months.

"It is true Chelsea did make an important offer on a financial level, even if it penalises us on a sporting level.

"The club which would have Michael will have more chances to win the Champions League. We did everything to try to keep him. It is heartbreaking."

Lyon coach Gerard Houllier was also resigned to the loss of the club's star midfielder.

The former Liverpool manager claims Chelsea will have another midfielder on a par with the likes of Liverpool's Steven Gerrard - who ironically turned his back on a move from Anfield to the Blues this summer.

Houllier commented: "We are forced to let him leave even if we didn't want to. But when a player doesn't want to play for a club anymore, you have to finally open the door.

"I don't think the player is over-rated. I can assert to you there are not 50 players like him in Europe.

"I repeat it but he is a kind of player like Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack. In those conditions, obviously I regret having to let Michael leave."

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