The question now revolves around how important a member of the squad Essien will ultimately prove to be. In short, it is highly unlikely that his signing will propel the midfield to a higher level.
The logic behind this signing is clear.
Essien comes to Milan without a transfer fee, and most importantly, with eligibility to play in the Champions League clashes with Atletico Madrid.
Otherwise, from a technical standpoint, it feels like a lateral move rather than a move that can truly help Milan up the standings in Italy.
Essien's peak years with Chelsea and Lyon arguably were from 2004-2010 when he was indisputably one of the very best defensive midfielders in world football.
However, since that time he has endured an injury-plagued time with both Chelsea and Real Madrid. Indeed, he missed large chunks of the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons as well with serious knee injuries.
It seems logical to expect that a player will lose a step after having torn his anterior cruciate ligament multiple times as well as his meniscus.
As such, Essien's body will not hold up to the rigors of playing week in and week out in domestic and European competition. This brings up the question of where Essien will play a role in the Milan first team.
Given the standard four-man backline that manager Clarence Seedorf will likely use, there are two to three spots in central midfield where Essien could potentially slot in.
In Seedorf's favored 4-2-3-1 formation, the two holding midfielders will alternate between Nigel de Jong, Riccardo Montolivo, Bryan Cristante, Andrea Poli and now Essien.
De Jong, on current form, seems a good bet to retain his place in the side. Montolivo, the captain, has been in poor form all season but is unlikely to be dropped often as well.
Essien would seem to provide an upgrade on the likes of Cristante and Poli in the short-term, given his experience with world-class clubs like Chelsea and Real Madrid.
However, the question needs to be asked whether it is in Milan's best interest to take away game time from emerging players like Cristante in a season in which all hope for silverware is long gone.
Logically, Essien's greatest impact could come in the Champions League.
With Montolivo and Sulley Muntari suspended in midfield, it is likely that Seedorf will opt for the experienced duo of de Jong and Essien behind the attackers. The clashes with Atletico Madrid will come too soon for Cristante and Riccardo Saponara, two of Milan's most promising young players. As such, Essien should provide some stability for these games and hopefully beyond.
Questions still remain over the long-term feasibility of this transfer.
What is Milan's direction? Where does Essien fit in among the logjam of midfielders next year?
An important step was made in hiring Seedorf to replace the fired Massimiliano Allegri, but much work remains to be done in reshaping the squad. Essien, while a shrewd signing, does not solve many of the big-picture issues Milan is now facing.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!