Jose Mourinho has acted as a father figure to countless footballers over the years, but Michael Essien may be his most famous son.
The Bison is one of only a handful of players to have enjoyed three separate spells under Mourinho, winning two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and the League Cup in the process.
Their bond is so strong that when Essien was preparing for the 2012 UEFA Super Cup against Atletico Madrid, Mourinho cheekily phoned him while he was in his hotel room in Monaco.
It did not matter that his knees had been ravaged by three serious injuries in four years at Chelsea or that they had not worked together since 2007.
With just hours to go until the transfer window shut, Mourinho wanted someone he could count on at Real Madrid; Essien said ‘yes’ to a loan move there and then.
Twenty-four hours later, Essien was unveiled at the Santiago Bernabeu – leaving some onlookers bemused when he repeatedly referred to Mourinho as his ‘Daddy’.
But it would not be an exaggeration to say that Essien’s life changed when Mourinho first reached out to him in 2005.
Mourinho was so keen to land the Lyon midfielder that he made five separate bids before finally making him Chelsea’s most expensive player of all-time.
Essien would become one of Mourinho’s nine untouchables at Stamford Bridge and their bond would be further strengthened by a humanitarian visit to the Ghanaian’s hometown in Accra in 2007.
“He was my father and I was his son, that’s as personal as it gets” he told MEN Sport. “Some of my personal memories of him will always remain with me.
“He’s one of the best in the business in terms of preparing for games and preparing for the season as a whole. Everything is planned in advance. Also, as a player you knew what he expected of you and where you stood with him.
“He says it as it is and never shies away from criticising you if he is not happy with you. At the same time, he is the first to praise you when you do well.”
It said it all that when Essien scored in Mourinho’s final game at Madrid, he rushed over to the touchline to give his manager a hug.
Mourinho was already thinking about his next challenge, returning to Chelsea, and Essien would again be coming with him.
“See you at pre-season training on July 8,” he whispered as they embraced.
The bags may now hang heavy under his eyes, and the press conferences may not be as dazzling as they once were, but Essien believes the hunger remains.
“He has been around a long time and knows the game inside out and that experience is what brings him success,” he said.
“The great managers always get better like Sir Alex, Carlo Ancelotti, etc – they always had answers for tough situations and are serial winners. Even after a normal season for Jose, he came away with three trophies – that’s what the great managers can do.
“He is a lot calmer now than before and I think he spends his energy on important things. He has also grown up and with age comes experience and a certain set of characteristics.
“But I think his way of playing has not changed much and his love for his players is still the same.”
Mourinho marked his first season at Old Trafford by winning three trophies – the Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield.
And Essien, who had a trial with United at 17, hopes his former manager can bring the glory days back to the Theatre of Dreams.
“I hope so because it’s not easy to repeat what Sir Alex did there,” he added.
“I am sure deep down Jose will be thinking if I can even do half of what Sir Alex did for Manchester United then I would have done well.
“Three trophies in his first season is not a bad start.”
Source: Manchester Evening News