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Essien to miss first half of African Cup of Nations

ACCRA, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Injured Ghana midfielder Michael Essien will miss the African Nations Cup finals in Egypt later this month, officials said on Friday.

Essien, Africa's most expensive player after joining English champions Chelsea for 38 million euros ($45.95 million), damaged ankle ligaments in a Premier League match last Monday.

He is joined on the sidelines by Ghana's Udinese midfielder Sulley Muntari and their Modena striker Asamoah Gyan, who became the latest casualty during training on Wednesday.

Officials said Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic, the first to announce his 23 players for the tournament in mid-December, has called up three players to bolster his injury-hit squad.

The late replacements are strikers Louis Agyemang from South African champions Kaizer Chiefs, Baba Adamu of Russian club Krylya Sovietov Samara and Hans Sarpei who plays for VfL Wolfsburg in Germany.

Chelsea said earlier on Friday that Essien would not recover from his ankle injury until the end of the month, ruling him out of at least the first half of the African tournament.

'He has a bad injury to the ligaments of his ankle,' Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho told reporters at the club's training ground near London.

'The information I have from the medical department is that the end of the month is his recovery period,' the Portuguese coach added.

Mourinho said he hoped Ghana would allow Essien, the club's record signing after he joined in August, to remain in London to receive the best treatment for the injury sustained after a tackle by Nigel Reo-Cokerin a 3-1 win over West Ham United.

Ghana, who have also qualified for the World Cup finals in Germany later this year, are one of the favourites in the African competition which runs from Jan. 20 to Feb. 10.

However, they have a tough opening round group in Egypt where they play Nigeria, Senegal and Zimbabwe in Group D.