Michael Essien…Sulley Muntari…Jose Mourinho has a great history with developing Ghana players and with new sensation Felix Afena-Gyan, the former Chelsea and Inter Milan manager may be on his way to creating his own. last job.
Joining Chelsea in 2004 after winning the Champions League with Porto, Mourinho quickly identified Essien as one of his top priorities for his new venture at Stamford Bridge. Back then, the midfielder was lighting up the French Ligue 1 with Lyon, having won the league title in 2004 and 2005 and the Super Cup in 2003 and 2004. But still, ‘The Bull’ was far from a household name in world football. .
In August 2005, Lyon and Chelsea agreed a £24.4m fee after a long transfer saga, making the then 22-year-old Ghanaian Chelsea the most expensive signing of all. weather. His acquisition remains unquestionably one of the Blues’ best football deals, as he will win two Premier League titles, four FA Cup honours, a Football League Cup, a Community Shield and a League gold medal. champions, with three of the titles (2005-06 Premier League, 2006-07 FA Cup, 2006-07 League Cup) under Mourinho’s tutelage before leaving the Blues dugout in 2007.
Again, following his appointment as Inter Milan boss in 2007, Mourinho signed Muntari, who had just helped Portsmouth win the FA Cup. It would be another great run for a Ghanaian under the Portuguese coach as they won two Serie A titles, a League Cup, a Super Cup and the 2009-10 Champions League title.
Fast forward more than a decade and there seems to be another beautiful piece of history blossoming, albeit with a slightly different starting plot.
In May last year, Mourinho took over as Roma coach, just a month after the Italian side announced the signing of Afena-Gyan after an impressive trial. Having left Ghana a few months before, the striker was expected to take a long time to get used to his new surroundings and was therefore sent to the club’s youth team.
However, it wasn’t the intended start that played out as the striker hit the ground running with goals for Roma in the youth league. After knocking hard on the first team’s door, it was no surprise that Afena-Gyan was quickly promoted to the senior team.
In October, the youngster was given his Serie A debut by Mourinho against Cagliari. A month later, he then announced his arrival on the big stage in style, scoring a sensational brace as a substitute to secure a 2-0 triumph over Genoa.
There was still more to come for the now 19-year-old as he helped Ghana qualify for the 2022 World Cup, leading the lines in games as important as play-off clashes with none other than his arch-rival Nigeria in March. .
It might even get better for the teenager as he could finish his first season of senior football with a big medal as Roma have qualified for the UEFA Europa Conference League final.
From playing school football at home, to graced Serie A, representing Ghana and now virtually confirmed for the World Cup in Qatar later this year, it has been a phenomenal transformation for the striker in a matter of months. In all of this, Mourinho, who believed in the Ghanaian, presented him with opportunities so early and gave him the confidence to thrive, probably deserves more credit than anyone else.
Even then, Afena-Gyan, who had limited opportunities at the Stadio Olimpico, is far from a finished product.
“He [Afena-Gyan] is far, very far from the finished product – far from being a complete player and far from being the perfect player to start in a team like Roma. But he is a player to work with and who deserves a chance to play,” Mourinho said of the Black Star in March.
He may still be nowhere in Essien and Muntari’s class yet, but Afena-Gyan’s promising start at Roma signals that a new Ghanaian weapon could be in development under the guidance of the club. artisan Mourinho.