Jakarta. Michael Essien, a former Ghana and Chelsea star who had won the UEFA Champions League, two Premier League titles and four FA Cups with Chelsea, reportedly receives Rp 9 billion ($647,000) a year at his new club Persib Bandung, breaking the record for a footballer's salary in Indonesia.
Essien has joined Indonesia's 2014 champions Persib on a one-year contract. Reports have shown that the Ghanaian is paid by Persib about $200,000 less than in his previous club Panathinaikos of Greece.
"Some of you have known Essien's contract, he's now the highest-paid footballer in Indonesia," Persib team manager Umuh Muchtar said on Wednesday (15/03), as quoted by state-news agency Antara.
Previously, the highest-paid footballer in Indonesia was Sergio van Dijk, a former Australian top league player who earned $337,000, also at Persib.
West Java's team, which is known for its blue jerseys, has been affiliated with some Indonesian tycoons, including Inter Milan president Erick Thohir and Salim Group, a company owned by the country's second richest man, Anthoni Salim.
Essien to Push Up Indonesian Football
The 34-year-old player is expected to open up more opportunities for players and stakeholders too boost the most popular sport in the country of 250 million.
"I hope this move will bring more world's top footballers to play in Indonesia. I'm excited to give my best at Persib," Essien said on the club's official website.
Before he was announced as Persib's new signing, Essien met a day earlier with Presidential Chief of Staff Teten Masduki, who saw in his arrival a big step for the development of football.
"I'm responsible for this country's football industry, so I see Essien's signing for Persib as a positive sign. I'm your big fan, I adored your partnership with Didier Drogba during your time at Chelsea," Teten told Essien.
The government's warm welcome for the World Cup-capped footballer was not a surprise since President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo declared his support for the country's football development, including fixing club management and infrastructure.
Number 5 Jersey in High Demand
The recent signing also sparks high demand on Persib jerseys. Persib loyal supporters, known as the Bobotoh, have been hunting for Essien's number five jersey — the same number he wore at Chelsea.
Persib merchandising executive Muhammad Irvan said the sales increased 10 percent after it was announced Essien would join the club.
"Shortly after Essien came in, supporters stood in longlines at our stores," Irvan said on the club's official website.
People who hold Persib's member card have to pay around $18 to get an Essien jersey, while the normal price is $22.
Essien, who once played for Spanish giants Real Madrid, will start training in late March.