Radja Nainggolan could be the much needed replacement for Michael Essien at Chelsea

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Some of Chelsea's most successful years during the Roman Abramovich era came during Michael Essien's eight seasons at the club.

The Ghanaian powerhouse quickly became an iconic figure at Stamford Bridge after his arrival from Olympique Lyonnais in the summer of 2005.

Rarely has the Premier League, let alone Chelsea, witness a player of such unique quality. During his last four seasons at the Bridge, Essien was plagued by several injuries which restricted his ability to recreate the form that once made him one of the most feared midfielders in Europe.


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Between 2005 and 2010, the former Lyon midfielder was a regular fixture in the Blues side and the club have found it extremely difficult to replace the imposing midfielder ever since.

In Radja Nainggolan, new Chelsea manager Antonio Conte might have spotted a player with similar abilities and presence, who could fill the space left at the Bridge by the legendary Ghanaian.

It is no secret that the Italian manager has identified the Belgian as his primary transfer target for the summer transfer window. But Roma's stubbornness in negotiating the right price has already seen two bids by the Blues being rejected.

The side from west London are currently in the process of preparing a third bid in an attempt to lure the industrious midfielder to Chelsea, according to the Evening Standard.

The Belgian's arrival at the club could provide the team with a more dynamic presence in midfield, something that has been lacking since the days of Essien.

Similarities with Essien

Having come into European recognition only in the last couple of years, Nainggolan has wasted no time in cementing his place in the Roma first team.

Much like Essien, the box-to-box midfielder seems to have endless stamina and energy. During the Ghanaian's time in west London, it was not rare to see the midfield enforcer cover at least 10km during the course of a match - a feat the Roma midfielder has been able to replicate during his time in the Italian capital.

Possessing an immense work rate and endurance, the Belgian midfielder is often seen to constantly chase the ball as well as make interceptions and tackles - prime attributes of a box-to-box midfielder.

But what makes the pair so dynamic is their ability to distribute the ball, make final passes and take shots, in addition to their incredible work ethic.

Another key attribute that the two midfielders share is their bulldozing runs into the heart of the opposition defence. Players of this nature often do not possess great dribbling ability, but both Nainggolan and Essien in his peak are very capable with the ball at their feet, giving them another dimension in midfield.

Essien's presence missing at Chelsea

Chelsea have never truly found someone quite like the relentless Ghanaian.

Ramires was seen as a potential replacement for the midfielder but the Brazilian's shortcomings in strength, ball control and vision meant he couldn't live up to his predecessor's reputation.

Essien could single-handedly raise the energy level of the entire game and his presence not only brought stability to the side but gave teammates, fans and the manager a great deal of assurance.

Also, the versatility of the midfielder allowed him to play in a variety of positions, making him a valuable player for the team.

The addition of Nainggolan to the Blues ranks will provide that much-needed stability and energy in midfield. The Belgian's off the ball efforts in chasing, tackling and intercepting can add a different dimension to their play.

Conte is familiar with the midfielder's skills from his time in the Serie A and understands the importance of bringing the punk-haired 28-year-old to the Bridge.

The only item that needs to be addressed is the transfer fee for the Belgian.

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AS Roma
Michael Essien
John Terry
Premier League
Serie A

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