Ex-Chelsea star Essien names Gerrard and Scholes as his toughest opponents

The Ghanaian midfielder came against the retired English duo several times during his nine-year stint at Stamford Bridge

Former Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien has mentioned Liverpool and Manchester United greats Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes as the toughest opponents he has played against.

The English duo achieved legendary status with the Red and Red Devils respectively, making a combined appearance in 1446.

They won a total of 36 titles, including the Champions League. Scholes won the bulk with 25 of which 11 Premier League.

The rise to the appearance of Chelsea as an English power center, made possible by acquisitions such as Essien, made Manchester United against Chelsea and Liverpool against Chelsea some of the most awaited fixtures in England.

“It’s between Steven Gerard and Paul Scholes. These two players were pretty tough to play against,” Essien said in an Instagram Live interview.

“They were not only good on the ball but they could handle it really hard. They were really tough but the Premier League was much tougher than now.

“Every team you meet was difficult so you have to try to be tougher.”

Prior to moving to Chelsea, Essien was a key figure with Lyon, winning Lig-1 titles in the back of 2004 and 2005.

His stellar performance in 2004-2005, the season before he went to Chelsea, got him the Ligue 1 player of the year which he admits was a surprise.

“I wasn’t paying attention to winning individual awards because I just wanted to enjoy my football,” Essien said.

“I remember being invited to the Players Awards night but I didn’t want to until Juninho [Pernambucano] came to talk to me. Some of my teammates went so I had to go with them and I was very surprised when I won it.

“I didn’t know that they had gone to Ghana to interview my mom and sisters. They were just playing the video for me when I was on stage receiving the award.

“I was a little emotional but happy. Winning the best player in France at that time was huge.

“I was competing with my own teammate Juninho who was a magician because he could do something with the ball so hitting him for the award was quite an achievement.”

Essien went on to play 256 competition times for Chelsea, scoring 25 goals and giving up 18 assists.

He won nine titles at Stamford Bridge including the 2012 Champions League.