Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has warned Chelsea that they face competition from English rivals Arsenal and Manchester United for the signature of midfielder Michael Essien.

Aulas claims Arsenal want Essien as a replacement for Patrick Vieira, who quit Highbury earlier this month to join Juventus.

Aulas said: “The longer Chelsea take to make up their minds, the more exposed they are to a bid from another English club who have lost a key midfielder.

The Lyon chief also claimed that Manchester United were pursuing the Ghanaian midielder.

“Essien is a bit mixed up. Manchester United are after the player as well,” he added.

Chelsea have been chasing Essien after missing out on a deal for Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard but the French champions have placed a huge £32m price tag on him.

Both Arsenal and Manchester United have money to spend, but neither can expect to compete with Chelsea if it came down to pure spending power.

Aulas added: “It’s annoying to lose one of the best players in Europe but he has not gone yet.

“As far as recruiting is concerned, if manager Gerard Houllier needs reinforcements we will do what is necessary over the next period of the transfer window.”