Forget the likes of Fernando Torres, Edin Dzeko and Mesut Ozil, for Chelsea fans the welcome sight of Michael Essien on the football pitch was all they wanted this summer.
You only really appreciate what you have got when it is gone and that has been the case for Blues fans during the six months Essien has been on the sidelines. His injury, sustained during the African Nations Cup, also cost him a place in South Africa and makes you wonder how far Ghana could have gone with The Bison in their midfield.
Similarly, it isn’t unrealistic to assume the Blues’ Champions League bid would have carried more weight with Essien in the engine room. They will certainly have more chance of justifying their Champions League odds this time around if he stays fit.
The former Lyon man has become a bit of a cult figure at Stamford Bridge since his move from France in 2005, winning the club’s player of the year award in 2007 and scoring the goal of the season twice.
However, the past three years have seen more injury torment than on field action. As well as this year’s extended lay-off, the 2008/09 season was ruined by an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
But looking at the player patrolling the Selhurst Park pitch in that friendly it looks as if he is on his way back to his best. It is always hard to judge a player in a pre-season friendly but you couldn’t have asked more of Essien against Palace, scoring the winner and dominating the midfield like he hasn’t been away. The Blues are Premier League favourites this season, and his return is a welcome boost.
Chelsea have coped in his absence, the Premier League and FA Cup trophies are testament to that, but the Blues are a vastly stronger outfit with him in the side.
And that is why his return to action is the best thing that will happen to Chelsea all summer.