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  • Former Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien (AAP)Source: AAP
Can Melbourne Victory sustain a title challenge this campaign without their marquee man, asks Tom Odell.
Tom Odell

6 Oct 2016 - 2:15 PM  UPDATED 6 Oct 2016 - 2:15 PM

Michael Essien was about to become Melbourne Victory’s marquee signing, but in what can only be described as a last minute U-turn, the Ghanaian pulled out of a move to the A-League.

A fortnight ago, he was about to join the club until a season-long marquee deal worth close to $1m fell through, a day before he was set to be unveiled.

Victory have been active in the transfer market despite missing out on the ex-Chelsea star, acquiring a host of talent from Australia and abroad.

The club secured the services of Spanish defender Alan Baro while bringing back cult heroes of seasons past, James Troisi and Marco Rojas.

They also picked up young prospect Mitch Austin from the Central Coast and experienced defender James Donachie from Brisbane Roar.

As impressive as these signings are, can Melbourne Victory sustain a title challenge this campaign without their marquee man?

Crosstown rivals Melbourne City secured Tim Cahill as their marquee signing last month, and he will only add to their potent strike force.

City broke the goal-scoring record last season (63), and as Cahill joins Bruno Fornaroli and co, they will look to build on that and make a significant challenge for the A-League title.

Whether Melbourne Victory can match them remains to be seen, but a fit and firing Essien would have helped their cause.

Essien was considering a move after departing Greek side Panathinaikos, and Melbourne Victory almost won the race for his signature.

His impressive 13-year career includes stints at Lyon, Chelsea, Real Madrid and AC Milan.

Having made his name as a defensive midfielder, the 33-year-old would have slotted straight into the Victory line-up, sitting deep in front of the back four.

In an effort to bolster their depth in the middle of the park, signing the Ghanaian would have been a coup had he not pulled out at the eleventh hour.

Victory managed to scrape into the finals after finishing sixth on the table last season, but were swiftly eliminated by the team them they face in the season opener on Friday night, Brisbane Roar.

The biggest club in the country will be desperate to improve, but without Essien, can Melbourne Victory challenge for the title this campaign?