Whether it be for individuals or clubs, sometimes things happen, and despite intentions being right and honest, they don’t go to plan. At other times there is wanton mismanagement by players, unfavourable club policy, stomach-led player agents and other factors that all contribute to player failures.
Similarly, sometimes footballers simply do not live up to expectations. From increasingly young ages, players are picked and judged on whether or not they have what it takes, whether or not they have “potential.” Between 2010 and 2018 Ghanaian players were littered across various youth teams of top clubs in Europe’s top 5 leagues. There were Ghanaian youth players at Ajax Amsterdam, PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord; there were players at Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal; Ghanaian youngsters were found at Fiorentina, Parma, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Napoli, Genoa; there were Ghanaian players at Porto, Benfica; there were young players learning their trade at Olympique Lyon, Olympique Marseille, PSG and there was even a player at Real Madrid.
while many other Ghanaian players do follow their career path expected for them, there are those who simply, for a variety of reasons, fail to meet their potentials.
Here is a look at 10 players, all blessed with wonderful gifts, that to varying degrees of reasons, simply didn’t meet the highest levels of which they were either capable or which were earmarked for them to reach.
- 10. Justice Opoku – Inter Milan (Attacker)
At the start of 2015 17-year-old Justice Opoku was ranked among the best footballing prospects in the whole world as he became famous globally for his formidable finishing instincts. The teenager scored for fun at Inter Milan’s Berretti (U18 side). In the 2013/14 season he beat Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to highest number of goals scored in a single season by bagging 73 goals for I Nerazzurri and led them to win the Mediterranean Cup by scoring 11 goals.
For most talent watchers in Europe the next Mario Balotelli had been discovered in Opoku but he lost his grace and talent before he turned 18 as a reported move to Inter’s cross-city rivals AC Milan dominated talks about his youth career. The Nkawkaw-born soon vanished from the system as he dropped to play in lowly ranked leagues in Italy before eventually becoming clubless at the tender age of 22.
- 9. John Cofie – Manchester United (Forward)
Not much Ghanaian names has been seen at Manchester United since time immemorial but the Red Devils paid big money this chap regardless of his era and his tender age. Legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson paid £1 million to sign the youngster from Burnley at the age of 14. At the age of 13 Cofie had been exposed to extravagant lifestyle as he slept in big hotels and enjoy executive treatment in flights shuffling between England and Germany. Burnley youth coach Jeff Taylor was at various ends witnessing the player in his early teens being exposed to high time living at such a young age. At United Cofie failed to realise his footballing dreams as his focus obviously shifted to success on the pitch to maintaining the high-class lifestyle he had been exposed to. Soon the whole of Old Trafford would begin to view him from the spectacle of a wasted talent and a complete waste of space at the club as he failed to make a single first team appearance at the club. At age 27 Cofie has already made 15 moves in his career switching between 13 different club. A big highlight of his inability to live up to the general expectation of him is seen in his numbers. He has scored just 11 goals in a total of 73 appearances for 13 different clubs. He was born in the Western region town of Aboso.
- 8. Amidu Salifu – Fiorentina (Midfielder)
Fiorentina paid €2.5 millions to Vicenza for the signature of the one-time highly-rated youngster who was born in Sunyani. It is now safe to say that he is one of the biggest Ghanaian talents ever wasted. In March 2020 Fiorentina announced that the club will part ways with the midfielder after his contract run out in June 2020. The announcement defined an end to a 9-year relationship of disappointment for the club who never truly benefited from the player on the field of play. Amidu, popularly known as Amando, arrived at Fiorentina at the age of 18 and was quickly drafted into the Primavera squad for the Florence-based side. His precocity and grace on the ball earned him a Serie A debut on his first season at the club as he made a substitute appearance for the club in April 2011. For Fiorentina, they believed the club had netted the next biggest player in Europe as they went ahead to hand him 6 starts and 14 appearances in total in the following season. But, since the 2011/12 season, pomposity of the favour and grace he had earned entered into his head and he started to decline. After a failed loan spell at Catania in the Serie A he found no top-flight suitors as he dropped to the Serie B where he played two seasons for Modena starting just 43 games in the available 80 plus games. His stocks continue to decline as he eventually dropped to Serie C and then move to the Middle East. He featured just twice for the Ghana U20 side and all his abundant talent and promise has gone to waste.
- 7. Kevin Osei – Olympique Marseille (Forward)
After the Ayew brothers burst onto the scene at the Stade Vélodrome and earned their place in the hearts of the Marseille faithfuls Osei was billed to become the next thing at club. Despite showing so much prospect with Marseille U19 and getting promoted to the first team in the 2009/10 season he never got to make a league appearance for Les Phocéens in the 6 seasons he spent at the club. Osei featured once for the Ghana U23 side and that marked the end of his international career as he failed to impress at club level to even earn a look in from any of the Ghana senior national team coaches. After the end of the 2013/2014 season Marseille allowed him to leave on free transfer and he spent a season away from football before moving to English club Carlisle United. Spells in Bulgaria offered no reprieve as he returned to France to play for 5th tier side Aubagne who have now earned promotion to the 4th tier. The most mercurial of young footballers Osei was capable of the sublime, the spectacular, the ridiculous and the just freakingly unreal during his youth days at Marseille, a major cause for earning the recommendation of the Ayews to the Ghanaian football hierarchy. Technically, his left foot was something to just sit back and admire. Capable of picking a pass over six yards or 60, a devilish deliverer of set-pieces and capable of the most ferocious shots it was a thing of beauty. But all these capabilities and talent has died.
- 6. Shadrach Eghan – FC Twente (Midfielder)
The uber-talented wunderkind who graced Dutch football with his bag of tricks and flicks. Eghan had many European scouts drooling whenever they watched him in action. It is fair to mention that the Akosombo-born had a flourishing season at FC Twente in the 2013/14 season when he earned major recognition across the Eredivisie for his talent and grace when he was just 18 years old. Certainly there were moments—most notably his stunning strike against PSV Eindhoven in a 2-2 draw in the course of the season and a quite mesmeric piece of skill followed by an unerring finish as Twente enjoyed a superb season. The youngster was originally a player of Krystal Palace – a Ghanaian second-tier club based in Akosombo but made a controversial switch to rival club Golden Boots, a move which created anger and disquiet between the two clubs and officials at the clubs. Luck never seemed to follow the youngster afterwards as he failed to find his wits after just one good season at Twente. After spending four seasons at Twente he was forced out due to paperwork and work permit issues. Eghan headed to Northern European territory where he played in Norway and Denmark but failed to play to any good dignity. You would be surprised that the player who showed such amount of promise and talent now plays in Iraq and hasn’t scored a league for the past 5 seasons. In fact his last competitive goal was scored for FC Twente II in the 2014/15 season. But still, there remains that feeling that somewhere along the way, the precocious, artful dodging-spirit was lost, and Ghanaian football never got to benefit from it.
- 5. Moses Odjer – Tema Youth (Midfielder)
As Ghana stepped out of the disappointment of the 2013 FIFA U20 World Cup in Turkey and looked to the future, Moses Odjer was the young prospect who was the peak of the hopes of the West African nation carried by a new band of promising talents. Rising through the ranks at Tema-based side Tema Youth, the club that nurtured and produced Atletico de Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey and then making his name during Ghana’s campaign in Turkey, the midfielder was a pointer to the country’s future: a talented, technical midfielder that was capable of operating in a variety of different roles but most dangerous from offensive midfield role. After the end of the campaign in Turkey scores of stellar European clubs lined up to try and sign him. Premier League giants Manchester United were strongly linked with a move for him and several online portals reported that the Red Devils but the move didn’t materialise as he headed to Italy. Odjer was one time stocky, quick, powerful and with a fair few tricks in his bag which should have seen him excel in any of Europe’s top division league BUT he never got to play any top-tier league football as he has spent all his playing career in the Italian Serie B. Instead of the much publicised move to Manchester United the youngster joined Italian Serie B side Catania Calcio and has since been a loan a loan machine within the second-tier ranks. At 24 the Tema-born is hoping to make a move to England and still maintain the hope of becoming the Odjer people saw 7 years ago and play to expectation but miracle is not to be expected.
- 4. Daniel Kofi Agyei – Fiorentina (Midfielder)
The player deserves to be at the top of the list purely due to his unprecedented decline and failure to play to the level of prospect and promise during his youth days at Fiorentina. Kofi Agyei was captain of the Fiorentina Primavera team and was largely regarded by most Ghanaian talent hunters as the heir apparent to Michael Essien in the Ghana midfield. His abilities, capabilities, capacities, resilience, prowess and dedication all underlined the kind of player he was meant to be but never became. Playing alongside Nii Nortey Ashong, Maxwell Boadu Acosty and Amidu Salifu in the Fiorentina Primavera team Kofi Agyei was ranked the best and most talented among them. At 19 he earned his Serie A debut and almost became untouchable in the squad as Fiorentina continued to count him among the best at the club but just like Amidu Salifu he also failed to deliver. Finally in 2012 Fiorentina made the midfielder leave their ranks as it had become obvious that he cannot play to their expectation. He was first sent on loan to Serie B side Juve Stabia to garner more experience and play more first team football but the results was undesirable as they allowed the midfielder leave on permanent basis. Afterwards it was all dropping down the pecking order as he went down to play in the third-tier (Serie C). Can you believe that the 28-year-old now struggles to get playing time in the Serie C as he managed to play just 2 games for Carrarese in the 2019/20 season. After failing to excel in the Serie C it is not known the level at which the defensive midfielder can now play again.
- 3. Emmanuel Frimpong – Arsenal (Midfielder)
Captain England at U16, U17, U18 and U19. Grew through the youth ranks at Arsenal and Frimpong made his first League start in Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat by Liverpool, a match in which he was sent off for two bookable offences. Another stunning display saw him perform creditably in midfield against Manchester City. During his days when he was bursting onto the scene he was asked to sit deep, break up attacks, play simple balls to his midfield compatriots, and generally do the leg work in order for the attacking players to shine. It was an incredibly narrow remit for a player with such an obvious array of qualities and he was obvious meant to take over at the top of English football.The Ghana FA went to war with their English counterparts to secure the services of the highly-rated midfielder who had the legs and power to command and change the texture and architecture of games from the middle. Frimpong was born in the Ghanaian capital, Accra. In 2009, he said: ‘No matter what, I will always play for Ghana.’ This year he reinforced his point, saying: ‘If Ghana call me, I will ride my own bicycle from England to Ghana.’ And indeed Ghana called him and he honoured the call up. After debuting for the Black Stars in an era where midfield talents was in abundant flow for the West African powerhouse the grande plan was to gradually introduce the midfielder as a long-term replacement for Michael Essien but injuries and shift of focus would not allow the midfielder to give out his best for club and country. After 6 seasons at Arsenal the one-time powerful midfielder left the Emirates Stadium but before exiting the Premier League Frimpong had played 23 times for Arsenal, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham all in the top division. The end of his Arsenal career didn’t mean an immediate exit from England as he headed to Barnsley where he managed to play just 9 games after recovering from a dreadful anterior cruciate ligament tear. Spells in Russia and Cyprus couldn’t earn any good returns to the midfielder who eventually hung his playing boots at the age of 28 due to disappointments and injuries. Most people blame his inability to perform at the top level to lack of focus which was evident on his attention to his DENCH clothing line and over indulgence in social media.
- 2. Richmond Boakye-Yiadom – Genoa (Forward)
Growing up his greatest strengths is his uncanny ability to find himself in the right place at the right time and it was no wonder or surprise when he scored on his Serie A debut for Genoa in April 2010. ‘Kwame Fish’ as he is popularly known among his peers back home in Ghana showed much prospect at his youth days and he justified it at Genoa when he was scouted and sent abroad by Ghanaian agent Oliver Arthur. Going into the 2010 FIFA World Cup Ghana looked on with hope as it was believed that another star had been discovered to fill the boots of Asamoah Gyan and Matthew Amoah when they eventually exit the scene. In order to take pressure off his shoulders Genoa farmed him out to then Serie B club Sassuolo for first team game experience and he returned the following season with impressive numbers by scoring 10 goals in 34 games for the Green and Blacks. The highlight of his career came when giants Juventus saw the quality in him and signed him 2012 summer for a reported fee of €4 million. The move to Juventus probably entered his head as he failed to make the grades and was sent back to Sassuolo on loan in the Serie B where he scored 11 in 32 games. Despite scoring against Real Madrid and Sevilla during his one-season loan spell at Juventus the youngster failed to maintain the momentum as he drew back to play in the Serie B for Latina after a string of underwhelming performances for Dutch side Roda JC and Atalanta. Since then he has been limited to playing in China and for Serbian club Red Star Belgrade. Looking at it Boakye Yiadom has duly played at the top level including appearing in the UEFA Champions League and shouldn’t have been here but taking his talent and the promise he offered into consideration he could have played at the very highest for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Failing to make a single appearance for Juventus signifies a talent that has gone to waste and this can be put down to a multiplicity of factors but the biggest being his lack of focus and dedication to his game.
- 1. Daniel Opare – Real Madrid (Defender)
The first Ghanaian player to play at Real Madrid when he joined the Spanish giants in 2008 after enjoying a wonderful campaign with Ghana’s Black Starlets at the 2007 FIFA U17 World Cup in Korea. The story of Daniel Opare is well documented in the annals of Ghanaian football. The defender was almost heading to Liverpool after AshantiGold agreed terms with the Anfield giants in 2007 but the powerful lateral defender opted to join Real Madrid where he was drafted into the club’s Castilla squad. Opare was one player meant for the top but his rise was one that was tied to patience. At the time he felt he was matured for first team football at the Santiago Bernabeu European football was seeing the birth of a legendary defender in Sergio Ramos. Ramos was by then a Spanish national team player and owner of the right-back slot where Opare was to play. It has been rumoured that Jose Mourinho had plan to gradually introduce the youngster into games but the player felt he had to play first team and forced his way out of the Spanish capital to sign for Belgian side Standard Liege. The singular decision to leave Madrid and his choice of club spelt the end of every promise he offered to football at the top level. Though he played week in week out at Standard Liege and was practically one of the club’s best players the Belgian league didn’t offer him the platform and coverage he needed to become the player he was meant to be. After 4 seasons he left Liege to sign for Porto where off the pitch issues ensured he didn’t make a single competitive appearance for the club side playing in Team B games. He then moved to Turkey for a season before signing for French second-tier side Lens before returning to Bundesliga side Augsburg where he played 17 times in the 2017/2018. Once again off the field issues led to his exit at Augsburg. He now plays in Belgian for Zulte-Waregem.
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