Africa

Last updated: 27 november, 2009 - 17:46 GMT

Why I'd vote for Essien

Michael Essien's versatility is what convinces BBC Fast Track reporter Ibrahim Sannie that the Ghanian should be the African Footballer of the Year.

It has become the norm for strikers to dominate 'Footballer of the Year' awards because they score goals.

Yet the role of players like Michael Essien who not only create scoring chances but also play a defensively, is often neglected.

Michael Essien

That injustice is likely to rear its head when Africa's best players are considered for 2009 so Essien's pivotal role in the successes of Chelsea and Ghana should not be undervalued.

Despite the presence of strong African strikers like the Ivorian duo Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, Chelsea struggled to find their scoring form without Essien.

But when he recovered, he reinvigorated the side to help them win the FA Cup and then the Charity Shield – achievements that looked unlikely in his absence.

As he returned from injury, his tough tackling style, boundless energy and physical presence provided the much-needed cover to the central defence.

Crucially his ability to burst forward to create chances for the strikers helped them to turn the corner and finish third at the end of last season.

As well as creating goals Essien has begun finding the net this season for Chelsea with six goals so far which has lead to coach Carlo Ancelloti singing his praises.

"I think Essien is one of the most important players in midfield in the world," he said.

"He can play everywhere in midfield with the same result. He has shown a lot of consistency this season and maintained a good physical condition."

He has been equally influential in his return to the national side as he quickly helped to maintain stability in the Ghana midfield in the absence of Stephen Appiah and Sulley Muntari in June's World Cup qualifiers.

Combining his passion for his country with his versatility, he scored against Sudan to make Ghana the first African country to reach the 2010 World Cup.

click Vote for the African Footballer of the Year now

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