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Essien to join Panathinaikos

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ESSIEN-AC-MILANATHENS, June 3- Veteran Ghanaian footballing great  Michael Essien will play in his fifth different European championship next season after signing a two-year contract with Greek giants Panathinaikos, the club announced on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old — capped 58 times — will be paid 1.2 million euros ($1.3million) per year, the Greek press reported.

He was greeted at Athens airport early Tuesday by some 1,000 Panathinaikos supporters who screamed his name.

“It’s incredible,” he told reporters about his reception at the airport.

“It was an easy decision to come. Panathinaikos is a very big team in Europe and I had a chance to talk to (former Panathinaikos and French star Djibril) Cisse on the telephone and he told me ‘go my brother, you’ll love it.

“I am looking forward to my new adventure,” Essien said after signing his contract.

He played 20 times for AC Milan last season but it was at Chelsea, largely under Jose Mourinho, where he enjoyed his greatest run of success from 2005-14, although he was on loan for one season with Real Madrid.

The elegant midfielder collected two Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League, though the latter came under Roberto di Matteo.

He started his career with Corsican side Bastia (2000-2003), making his name at French club Lyon (2003-2005) before joining Chelsea.

Essien teamed up again with Mourinho at Real Madrid (2012-2013) where he was sent on loan, but headed back to England with the Portuguese coach to Chelsea where he was a shadow of the player from the first spell.

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