Christian Atsu has joined English Championship club Newcastle United. The Black Stars player need to let football fans believe the hype again, Michael Oti Adjei writes.
As we got immersed in the drama of the final day of the transfer window and kept refreshing our twitter feeds every other second, there would have been a few anxious Ghanaian players and many Ghanaian football fans trying to make sense of some of the activity involving Ghanaian players.
What does it mean for their careers, how does it impact on the national team, is that move a step down and what does this say about the career has been one of those asked questions. They are vital questions too.
It is fair to say many of the transfers involving Ghanaian players have provided telling signs of where the career is heading. It was unusually quiet on the fronts of veterans Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari. In many ways it is a sign that the career has taken the home straight into the finish line.
Kevin Prince Boateng is enjoying himself clearly at Las Palmas but it would be generous not to describe that move as a step down.
The thought of Asamoah Gyan being hogged around championship side before he was rejected by Reading for whatever reason must have been embarrassing for the Ghana too. It gave Sunderland fans a measure of satisfaction that the man who rejected them for the UAE at the height of his goal scoring prowess would be denied a return to the league and they made their feelings well known on twitter.
In the end, Gyan is back in the United Arab Emirates where his staggering goal scoring record has earned him legendary status. If he produces that goal a game rate for Al Ahli as he did for Al Ain, they would be hailing him for many years.
His recent attempts to get back to England however suggested a man fed with the small time and one who misses the big leagues. He spoke of ‘maybe’ it being destiny that he is back in England.
"I went to the Middle East but I was scoring goals for the national team and in the world cup. I don't regret it at all and now I am back to prove myself again. Maybe it is my destiny to be back to the Premier League or the Championship.”
Now he would have to do it all over again in the UAE. Yet in many ways the burden for Gyan is nothing compared to the challenge facing Christian Atsu. Gyan is a made man. For all his critics say, no one would doubt his quality as a striker. The goals have not dried up because he played in inferior leagues. And on the international scene he has not looked out of place. It helps too that he has earned a lot of money for his efforts. In a way whatever happens, football has been kind to him and would remember him well. At least there would be no tales of a promising talent who never lived up to the hype.
The same cannot be said of Christian Atsu. Like many Ghanaian ‘boy wonders’ the jury is out on him and the doubts are beginning to ring in people’s mind. All of a sudden his superb debut against Malawi at the Accra Sports Stadium that had all of us filled with hope is becoming a distant memory. Worryingly, in recent years the national has provided him more game time than club level. It is a worry sign.
With hindsight, it is easy to say Atsu should not have gone to Chelsea. The club hardly places faith in young players and rarely do players head out on loan there and come back to own places with Thibaut Cortuois one of the few exceptions. But that statement also literally seems to say he should not have been ambitious and never should have believed in himself. It also ignores the enormous financial improvement it has brought him even if it has not reflected in the quality of his career since.
But ambition must tell on the pitch, it must show in how you seize your moments, it must reflect in the games you get to play and it must tell as well in the rest of the rest of the world sits back and says ‘he is a bloody good player’.
Atsu did that during a loan spell at Vittese Arnheim when he was voted the club’s best player after 28 appearances, five goals and six assists.
Somehow he has never kicked on. Consumed by the obsession that the English Premier League is where you make your name, he has went to Everton where he played 12 times with one assist. When he did, it was not convincing enough. Problem was he was spending too much time on the fringes to have a meaningful impact when he came on. In the end he was moved on to Bournemouth, also on loan but with same story where he only played three cup matches. Niggling injuries did not help his came neither did the form at Malaga where a goal in his first game was soon followed by the now familiar sight of him on the bench.
In a way it a damning verdict that he none of the clubs he has spent time with on loan, apart from Vittese possibly have been keen to retain him. He has been moved on as soon as the opportunity as come.
Newcastle is the latest one. There he would work under the task master that is Rafa Benitez who likes his players to keep it simple and has never really fancied the odd body swerve and fancy skills that we admire about Atsu so much. It would be a huge challenge watched on a weekly basis if he gets to play by huge passionate crows. It would also be the perfect stage for Atsu to say to the world; I am that good.
We have said it for too long without having enough evidence at club level to back that up. Five clubs on loan, no official appearance for Chelsea yet, combined games Unless he begins to provide us with those moments he may well become another great Ghana talent we use as a case study for poor career choices and a lack of progress.
Hopefully after Newcastle he would no longer be Atsu the LOAN RANGER.