Panathinaikos snaps up Ghana midfielder Essien

Experienced Ghana midfielder Michael Essien joined Panathinaikos on a two-year contract as a free agent on Tuesday at the end of an 18-month deal with AC Milan.

“I am very happy to be here and I’m very much looking forward to starting my new career with Panathinaikos,» the 32-year-old Essien told reporters.

“I am a winner and I have come to Greece to win more trophies and to do whatever I can for my new team.”

Essien was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of about 800 supporters on his arrival at Athens Eleftherios Venizelos airport earlier on Tuesday before he passed a medical. «I did not expect such a reception,» he said.

“When I saw the fans, it was a great pleasure for me to see that they came out to greet me. It was incredible. I want to thank them and I will do everything I can to repay them.”

After making his name as a box-to-box midfielder at Bastia and Olympique Lyonnais in France, Essien signed for Chelsea in 2005 and spent nine years at the west London club where he won two league titles and four FA Cups.

He spent the 2012-13 season on loan at Real Madrid before joining Milan in January 2014 where he struggled to make an impact in a below-par team which finished 10th last season.

The capture of Essien is a huge coup for Panathinaikos, who has not won a league title since 2010 when Frenchman Djibril Cisse spearheaded the attack.

But after a strong finish to the season under young Greek coach Yiannis Anastasiou, it came second behind Olympiakos Piraeus in the league and went on to clinch Greece’s second Champions League spot via the playoffs.

The Greens will enter European soccer’s elite competition at the third qualifying round stage.