Some weeks conspire to give us an incredible lot to talk about in football. Ghana’s Black Satellites put in their worst performance at the U-20 world cup then a day later the player who led to that historic 2009 world championship made a move to Swansea that draw drew applause and derision in good measure. The following day another of those very prominent figures from that U-20 team Samuel Inkoom was back in the headlines and this time for good reason. He has signed for Boavista in Portugal on a three year deal that his closest admirers hope will bring an end to his drift towards football abyss.
The sequence of events and the common thread running through them provides fascinating talking points. They provide clues to how careers can go from very good to bad, how managing them with calm heads can be the difference between two years of glory and many years wandering. And for many of the players who were with the Black Satellites in New Zealand they are two transfers that will be playing on their minds as agents come calling, dangling all sorts of proposals before them with promises some they know deep down them they can’t fulfil.
Take Ayew for instance. He went to the U-20 world cup knowing it was potentially his best chance to banish the long held suspicion that it was his famous surname, not his talent that first got him into Marseille and sustained his stay there. He was struggling in football terms at the time, barely got games and took the step down to the French second division with Arles Avegnon. Then he played his way back into the good books of Didier Deschamps at the time, convinced many of those quick to deride him that he has the talent on his own to thrive and went on to the world cup the following year to make an even bigger impression. In no time, Marseille were revising the decision to off-load him. Until he left this week, he had grown to become one of their most influential players of the last five years.
Then there is Samuel Inkoom. When he was marauding down that right side of Ghana’s attack in Egypt during that U-20 tournament we were convinced he could go on to become one of the greatest attacking full backs from this side. He could cross the ball, he could defend. In no time he made the transition from local boy at Kumasi Asante Kotoko to a regular at Basel, appearing in Champions League games and later the quarter final of the world cup.
That is sadly where the good tale ends and the response to the various transfers this week illustrates the different paths that the former U-20 pair have travelled in career terms. Inkoom has since his time in Switzerland played in Ukraine, Greece, France and the USA. The frightening bit is he has not looked anything close to the Inkoom who wowed Swiss fans on any of those journeys. When players spend six months or one season at a club without a desire on the part of the club to renew, then there is clearly a problem.
It is why a lot of the reaction to his Boavista move was so muted. When anything was said it was in expression of hope that the Inkoom of 2009 to 2011 will return to Boavista rather than in the hope that he is about to take the Portuguese top flight by storm. It will also be generally acknowledged that he has made the step up again after his MLS nightmare and that this could be his last shot at a good level in Europe.
Those who know him will hope he takes it. A genuinely nice guy, Inkoom’s image has taken a battering as his form has dipped. A constant flow of updates on social media about his life that coincided with a lack of form on the pitch has provided the perfect platform to nail him many times but he must be determined to take this chance and get the last laugh.
In contrast to Inkoom’s Dede Ayew’s move represents a step down for some people. It is difficult to understand why. The key argument is that is he going to a ‘small club’. Ghanaian comedian DKB said he was ‘pained’ by the decision, while one fan tweeted that it was a mistake.
A lot of the ‘disappointment’ stems from the slew of stories that was fed in typical transfer window fashion that linked him to almost every club. One moment Manchester United wanted him, another moment Liverpool, Tottenham were close several times if you believe those stories. At a point it seemed or so we are told that he was almost certain to end up to AS Roma.
In the end Dede has simply gone to a club that genuinely wanted him, one that you can only guess made a concrete offer and preposition that he would have thought is best for his career. Given how well he has been managed, the stature of the man he can call a father and football role model, it is difficult to argue with that.
And it is easy why it makes sense. At Swansea, his chances of playing is better than if he ended up at Roma, Liverpool or Spurs who have an expensive assembly of stars at a ridiculous turn over. At 25 he would also know that two good seasons in the premiership will dispel the one doubt about his quality ie whether he can crack it in that league.
They will love him there. He is physical enough to cope with that side of the game, has enough talent to survive and compete well. That mix of brain and brawn plus a personality that has been honed carefully by one of the most meticulous football families have prepared him well for this. They leave nothing to chance and they won’t with this one. Added to those is his supreme confidence and eloquence that should make sure he is at ease in a country where the football is played both on the field and in the newspapers and television studios.
Whatever you think it is a win, win situation for him. You have to hope same for Samuel Inkoom too.
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