While he is no doubt showing his age, Michael Essien remains a valuable member of the Ghana set-up. The dogged midfielder’s international career began in the deep end at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 2002, but he recovered from a rough start to become the foundation of the national team. Essien missed out on South Africa 2010 with a cruel knee injury and is looking to Brazil 2014 to banish those memories. Even in the twilight of his career, Essien, who played for Ghana at Germany 2006, is still a dangerous and inspirational figure.

Essien began his European career with an unsuccessful trial at Manchester United. He may not have earned a contract, but he did famously leave Old Trafford with David Beckham’s autograph. Idling for several months in his agent’s flat in Monaco, Essien eventually signed with Bastia in France and three seasons later he moved to Lyon, where he won successive Ligue 1 titles in 2004 and 2005 and was voted the league’s best player. A big-money transfer to English Premier League outfit Chelsea catapulted Essien into the international limelight and he spent the next nine seasons with the Londoners before moving on loan to Real Madrid. He returned to Chelsea at the start of the 2013/14 campaign but struggled to make an impact before moving to AC Milan. Essien’s trophy cabinet is filled with Premier League titles, FA Cup triumphs and even the UEFA Champions League. Despite not playing in the final when Chelsea beat Bayern Munich, the defender’s place as an immortal Ghanaian legend is safe enough.