Michael Essien has called on Chelsea to secure Eden Hazard on a new long-term deal as contract talks continue between the club and the player.
Hazard has been in a sensational form this season, having racked up an impressive eight goals and six assists despite missing the start of the season with a broken ankle.
Essien is still playing football in Indonesia with Persib, but he has recently been back training at Cobham Training Centre as his season has ended. The 35-year-old thinks that the lure of his other former club Real Madrid will be tempting but he hopes that Hazard will choose to stay at Stamford Bridge.
“He could go to Real Madrid to win the Balon d’Or easier,” Essien said with a laugh as he spoke with Goal. “When we talk about Eden, he is such a good player. He’s very quick, very good on the ball. He’s very strong, he may be little but he is strong, trust me! It is hard to get the ball off him.
“He’s such a good player and we’re happy to have him at Chelsea but I’d understand why Madrid would be looking at him. He is proving it week-in, week-out. At the moment he is the most important player [at Chelsea]. When you have Hazard, he can always do something.
“He can always create something to do something with the ball. He makes goals for himself or others. He has that magic touch. I think that Chelsea need to renew his contract. You don’t want your best players to leave and we need him at the club.
“I think he is only motivated about playing football, he just enjoys playing football. It would take a lot of money to replace him [at Chelsea] but I hope that they can tie him down for a long time.”
Essien, who was speaking at an event with Plus, made over 250 appearances for Chelsea winning two league titles, five domestic cups and the Champions League.
He signed for £24.4 million from Lyon where he won a number of honours and later went on to play for Real Madrid and AC Milan. Essien was asked which Premier League player he would most enjoy facing and he explained why he would have enjoyed sharing the pitch with N’Golo Kante.
“I would have loved to have faced Kante or play with him,” Essien said. “He is such a great player. I am happy he is at Chelsea and he is enjoying his game. It would be a very physical battle if I met him on the pitch. He has great energy, he never stops running, but he doesn’t run for the sake of running.
“He always does it for something. He’s good on the ball and his anticipation is second to none. He will chase you until he gets the ball off you and his tackles are always clean. I’ve met him and we just talk in general. He is a very quiet guy.
“I think that he is a good player and what he does on the pitch is pretty unique, not many midfielders are doing it. He has something special about him … everyone in the world has seen him and I would put him up there [among the best].”
Kante has made a similar early impact to Essien when he signed for the club in 2005, but Tiemoue Bakayoko has found his early career at Stamford Bridge more difficult. Bakayoko moved from France to England in a big-money deal just like Essien, but has recently come in for criticism over his performances.
Essien still thinks that Bakayoko will make the grade in west London after his £40 million summer move from Monaco and he has urged fans not to put too much pressure on him.
“It is his first season. He is still young and he has a lot in him to keep developing,” Essien said. “There’s no need to put pressure on him and he doesn’t need to put pressure on himself. He just needs to try to enjoy the situation and to try to adapt.
“Chelsea is an amazing place to play and the Premier League is not that easy to come to. Some people take time and others come in and get it straight away. He needs to adapt.
“However, I was ready when I signed for Chelsea. I was ready to come, it was physical in the league. I was prepared with my abilities and I was a bit older. I didn’t find it hard at all. [Jose] Mourinho gave me every confidence and it was quite easy to adapt.
“It was more physical back when I signed but for the players now it is a bit less. The referees are protecting the players more which is good. All my old team-mates are gone! It is the football life. Players come and go.
“Conte has brought in the players that he needs and that’s normal. It was nothing personal and it is a normal thing that happens in football. Managers come in and they need certain players, yes, all my old team-mates have gone but that’s normal to not stay there forever.
“You have to move on [as a player]. I don’t think it is hard for Conte’s side to compete with my side. I don’t like comparisons, what we’ve done has gone now and we have the new boys in now. We have to keep supporting them and they can win something for Chelsea.”
Essien has only played with David Luiz and Gary Cahill from the current group of Chelsea players, as John Terry, John Obi Mikel and Branislav Ivanovic were part of a group who left last summer.
Luiz has since been dropped following a poor performance against Roma and Andreas Christensen has stepped up into the starting line-up to take his place. Luiz then suffered a training-ground knee injury but Essien thinks that Chelsea should keep him around because he improves the atmosphere in the dressing room.
“Sell him? I am not sure. He is one of the leaders at the moment,” Essien said. “When you want to do something you need the leaders, you need that experience so hopefully he will still be around for a long time. When he was with me he was a crazy guy but in a good way.
“You need that as a player. He is not that old, 30 years old, he’s still young to me. He has a strong leadership in him and that’s good for the team. It is good to have him in the dressing room. It is very funny, he jokes around but he’s serious when he’s playing.
“It is sad how people forget last season so soon. It is what it is, this happens in football. He is still one of the best in my eyes. He’s out injured but I think he will come back strong and play for Chelsea.”
Michael Essien was speaking at a Plus event – access online funds in shop and cash-in shop bets on mobile, more info at hillplus.com