By Steve Vickers
Michael Essien can boast a most impressive list of credentials, among them the 2006 BBC African Footballer of the Year award.
The world's most expensive African player, Essien was also Chelsea's Player of the Year for the 2006-7 season.
The Ghanaian's value was further emphasised with the signing of a new five-year contract with Chelsea earlier this year, when Jose Mourinho was coaching the club.
But it is not only Mourinho who has sky-high regard for the 25-year-old midfielder.
Ghana coach Claude Le Roy believes that the Black Stars' prospects of winning the 2008 Nations Cup as hosts are strong, as long as Essien stays fit.
"Michael is a not a normal player, he is from another planet," Le Roy said.
While Essien shone for the Black Stars in 2006 in Ghana's courageous run at the World Cup, there were no such opportunities this year.
As Nations Cup hosts, the Black Stars were restricted to friendly matches.
But Essien was instrumental in Ghana's memorable 4-1 win over Nigeria in London, their first victory over the Super Eagles in 15 years.
At club level he demonstrated great versatility by often playing as a defender, including in the FA Cup final where Chelsea triumphed 1-0 over Manchester United.
Perhaps his most inspired moment with Chelsea this year was a last-minute goal from an impossibly acute angle in the Champions League quarter-finals against Valencia.
The goal took Chelsea through, though they were beaten by Liverpool in the semi-finals.
This year Essien revealed one of the secrets of his success - a staggering 14 hours of sleep a day.
"That helps me to get the energy you see on the pitch," he explained.
And with Essien's tough tackles and precise passing, the strategy seems to be paying dividends.
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