Former Chelsea star reportedly considering stake in League of Ireland club

Limerick FC Chairman Pat O'Sullivan has denied holding talks with ex-Chelsea star Michael Essien about taking a stake at the newly promoted Premier Division club, writes David Raleigh.

However, according to an article today in the Limerick Life newspaper, prolonged negotiations between Essien and the club began last summer.

The newspaper reports that a 40% stake at the club has also been offered to a Wexford businessman with a further smaller stake offered to Essien.

The businessman could not be reached for comment.

According to informed sources at the club negotiations with Essien have been ongoing since prior to the extent Chelsea midfielder's widely publicised visit to Limerick last July.

Mr Essien's wife, who runs a foundation for underprivileged children has been hugely impressed by largely unknown work that Limerick FC does in educating poor children in the Treaty City, the newspaper reported.

"Essien's wife got to know of Limerick FC's work through a chance encounter at Manchester City, and she came over to learn more about the club, and particularly its academy in Bruff," a source told the newspaper.

Another source said the club have met with Essien "several times in London and in Limerick".

"He was very close to taking a big stake at the club, and talks are still on-going," they said.

"For now it's more likely they will sell 40% to a Wexford businessman who has been involved at academy level football in the past," they added.

Pat O'Sullivan who has pumped millions into the club publicly welcomed Essien to Limerick FC's Markets Field home ground last July when the former Ghanaian international watched an impressive Limerick beat Shelbourne 2-0.

The stadium underwent a €400,000 redevelopment in 2014 with grant aid provided by the JP McManus charitable fund.

Essien later posted pictures from his Limerick visit on his Twitter account, thanking Mr O'Sullivan and the fans for their welcome.

It's believed he also visited Limerick FC's soccer academy in Bruff, Co Limerick, with a view to using the former convent boarding school and adjoining sports fields for a sports education programme helping teenagers from disadvantaged communities.

The Michael Essien Foundation does similar work in Essien's hometown of Awutu Bereku.

Sources told Limerick Life how a cash injection is being sought from Essien in order to push for Europa League football qualification next season. It's thought about €1.5m would be required to build a championship wining squad, while a Europa League qualification could net Limerick as much as €7.5m.

Pat O'Sullivan's family own Galtee Fuels in Foynes, a hugely successful importer of coal, operating under the 'Greenheat' label for its sales of stoves.

Mr O'Sullivan denied offering to sell the club to anyone, but added, "if I am, there will be a (public) announcement made about it."

"Michael Essien visited (Limerick) for a game while he was here on a private visit. It was fairly well publicised at the time," Mr O'Sullivan said.

"He was in Limerick and I believe he asked to come to a game, and, just like anyone else, he was facilitated," he added.

Essien who was presented with a Limerick FC Jersey by Mr O'Sullivan during his visit to the club last July. He also visited the facilities at the University of Limerick Sports Arena where Munster rugby and some of the world's top athletes train.

Essien's website describes him as a "humanitarian" who gives back "service" to his fellow man.

He has also helped raise hundreds of thousands of euro towards the fight against the Ebola virus after it devastated large parts of Africa.

Mr Essien was unavailable for comment.

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