Jose Mourinho was forced to consider making his Chelsea players wear shinpads in training following the arrival of Michael Essien from Lyon in 2005 – and his star players were up for it.
Two full seasons of success for the legendary Portuguese boss were enjoyed at Stamford Bridge during his first stint. He won back-to-back Premier League titles, 2004/05 and 2005/06.
Mourinho made four signings to his first-team, including Shaun Wright Phillips (Manchester City) and the aforementioned Essien.
Wright-Phillips now speaks out about the intense training sessions and how Mourinho was forced into considering safety measures.
Speaking to Bonus Finder, Wright-Phillips said: “The tempo was completely different when I moved to Chelsea. There was a real step up in quality as well.
“It only got worse when Michael Essien joined because Mourinho was at the point where he was thinking about getting the players to train with shin pads on.
“There was so many tackles flying in and training was really competitive so I don’t think we would have blamed him if Mourinho made that decision.”
Mourinho was fired in 2007. Essien, who had been playing under Mourinho on loan at Real Madrid, stayed with the club until 2014.
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He said of the midfielder back in 2018: “Tell you stories? I can tell you more than stories – feelings. That’s the feeling, he is more than a player for me.
“He was probably the only one who took me to his home, to the real home. He was taken to his home, the same street where he played soccer as a child.
“He made me fall in love with Ghana, with Accra where he lived, because then I had a better understanding of his mentality.
“I understand why as a player he was ready for everything, he was ready to die for the fellow players, for the club, for the manager, why he was ready to play like he did for me at Real Madrid with a knee that was not a knee anymore.
“It was a destroyed knee but with that personality, that desire and that mentality he suffered, always he suffered, but always with a smile. Michael smiles a lot.
“I loved so many of my players but I think Michael would be on the podium for sure.”