Michael Essien is set to join Chelsea after Lyon agreed to release their Ghanaian midfielder.

The saga which has dragged on for most of the close-season, apppears to be over, with Chelsea paying more than the club-record £24m they spent on Didier Drogba.

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said: “It is with great regret that Michael will leave Lyon. We wanted to keep him but we cannot make him stay.

“It is a wrench but for the club this is a good deal, the transfer should be superior to that of Drogba.”

Chelsea have had bids of £10m, £16.75m, £18m, £21m and £21m plus Tiago rejected by French champions Lyon.

Throughout that time Aulas has been adamant that Essien would stay at Lyon but he now seems ready to sel.

Aulas said after Lyon’s 1-1 draw at Marseille that the fee would be a record sale for Lyon.

“Providing there are no hitches, he will leave,” he added.

“We have had many exchanges with Chelsea and there are still some details to be resolved. It is an agreement in principle.

“We asked ourselves if the right solution wasn’t to let him leave. The offer from Chelsea is very interesting,” he stated.

“We have talked about Michael’s situation in great detail and we have decided it is better if we let him go.”

He claimed Essien was a player “who for the last two months has no longer wanted to play for Lyon”.

Aulas added: “This decision is regrettable, in a sporting and ethical sense. Everything has been done to keep him.”