The former Ghana international was asked to pick between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi during an interview with South African journalist Carol Tshabalala.
Essien acknowledged the individual talents of both players, but suggested both Ronaldo and Messi are on the same level.
He said both are top players and possess different characteristics, hence he cannot tell who is superior footballer among the two.
"I won't pick one and leave the other because they're both top players. They're both exceptional in whatever they're doing," Essien stated.
"It's hard to pick one because I've played with Ronaldo and played against Messi and I can tell you they are both excellent players.
“It's hard to pick to be honest because they both possess different characteristics,” he added.
The 37-year-old midfielder faced both players many times during his time at Chelsea and was at a point a teammate of Ronaldo when he joined Real Madrid.