Goal.com columnist Ed Dove, look at one of the most promising defensive midfielders of Ghanaian origin, namely Afriyie Acquah.
Billed as the â€˜next Michael Essienâ€™ by Walter Sabatini, the former Director of his parent club Palermo, Acquah is currently plying trades at fellow Serie A club Parma and has earned numerous plaudits from the fans and pundits for his consistent performances for the Crusaders throughout the initial few weeks of the current campaign.
However, as Dove tells us, while Acquah is a talented young lad, the player is yet to show the kind of progress that some had hoped.
â€œHe made his Ghana debut back in February, but has only featured intermittently since then. He was called up to the Black Stars squad last week, but in truth this was only because Emmanuel Badu pulled out,â€
He further adds,Â â€œThis perhaps points to an excuse for his international careerâ€™s slow start, the sheer quality of talented options Ghana have in his position ahead of him â€“ as well as Badu, youâ€™ve got Anthony Annan, Kwadwo Asamoah, Muntari â€“ thatâ€™s even ignoring a load of other decent youngsters, as well as Prince and Essien â€“ both of whom play central midfield, and both of whom have ruled themselves out of international action.â€
Like most of the upcoming modern-day defensive midfielders, Acquah falls into the category of a creative midfield enforcer.
Known for his robust tackling and high-work ethic, Acquah possess equally impressive passing abilities and traits to contribute towards both ends of the pitch.
Dove has a similar opinion about the 20-year-old.
â€œAs a youngster, Acquahâ€™s passing was noted as being exemplary â€“ thereâ€™s a wonderful story somewhere about him wowing all of these Northern Irish youngsters in Belfast with his exceptional touch and technique. He used to be a bit fragile, but reports suggest that heâ€™s bulked up a bit since then. Good aggression, good agility, good stamina â€“ quite a workhorse in the middle of the park.â€
He forms the vital cog between the midfield and the attack, breaking down the oppositionsâ€™ play, starting attacks from the deep and setting up plays for his colleagues in the final third.
Acquahâ€™s improved physicality, as mentioned by Dove, makes him a suitable and versatile avenue for the Premier League and La Liga, although his currently playing style seems to perfectly suit the Serie A.
Although Acquah primarily possess all the ingredients to flourish as the next African break-away star, the player has faced stagnated development over the past few years. As aforementioned, the competition for the national team role is stiff, whereas, Acquah was virtually unable showcase his true potential and break into the Palermoâ€™s first team on a customary basis.
â€œHe was unable to muscle into Palermoâ€™s starting XI regularly, but the loan move to Parma â€“ with option to buy â€“ could be a good step up in principle. Parma are currently doing pretty well in Serie A. Italian football has traditionally been criticised for not giving youth a chance, but the fashion seems to be changing, and so Acquah could well be riding a wave. People have also spoken of a determination, but alongside a laidback, easygoing demeanour,â€Â Dove states.
Unlike many of his counterparts, who have been previously suggested to dethrone the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi Hernandez as the streamline stars of world football but eventually turned out as busts, Acquah has valuable time on his hand and massive potential to be unearthed in the coming few seasons.
However, winning the highly-coveted Ballon dâ€™Or seems like a gamble of long odds for the former Mine Stars youngster.
â€œHeâ€™s certainly being slow to fulfil Sabatiniâ€™s suggestion that he would be the great hope of Ghanaian football. â€˜Great Hopesâ€™ donâ€™t tend to be cast off unless, maybe like Bojan or Sergio Canales, they fail to develop at the necessary speed.
Arsenal have been quoted as being interested though, but for now, he is a player still learning his trade, and if he can get the opportunities in Serie A, it would probably be worth sticking around, â€Â Dove points out.
â€œStill, some had suggested a future Ballon dâ€™Or winner, which, sadly, I think looks like a long shot now, but time is still firmly on his side.â€
A talented and determined individual, Acquah has a promising future ahead of him. His performances have been enthralling this term and the player has ample time to transform into one of the best exponents of his art in the near future.
The loan move to Parma could be perhaps the breakthrough point of his career and Acquah is surely an African to keep an eye out for in the European contingent.