The young playmaker has attracted interest from some of Europe’s elite clubs but he must decide his next destination very carefully
Ghana’s performance at the just-ended U-17 Africa Nations Cup in Gabon can best be described as a bitter-sweet experience. The Black Starlets – after all the scintillating football on display in their first two games – flattered to deceive and eventually lost out to Mali in the final.
It was a difficult result to accept, especially if you consider the worth of talent the squad possessed. Paa Kwesi Fabin’s side was well-drilled, played with so much confidence and exhibited a rare telepathic connection that most U-17 sides can only dream of (barring their last two games).
This squad is by far Ghana’s finest since 1995. And that is why failing to win the ultimate should not be a big deal. There are lots of positives that can be picked from the team’s output in Gabon, and that is where the focus should be.
For a country that has had the quality of players in the national team nosedive in recent times, the current U-17 squad breaths hope for the future. The likes of Eric Ayiah, goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim and the talismanic Emmanuel Toku rose to the occasion and gave all Ghanaians a timely reminder of the nation’s talent pool.
And it is no surprise that clubs have started hovering around the heads of the aforementioned players. Emmanuel Toku, in particular, has been in the spotlight ever since it was reported that some elite European clubs had registered interest in him.
The Cheetah FC playmaker is a fine player, with mindboggling skills – for his age. However, a move to one of Europe’s big clubs might prove a step too early.
“We have received offers from French sides PSG, Lyon and Manchester City but no decision has been taken,” president of Cheetah FC, Abdul Hayye Yartey revealed in an interview with GHANASoccernet.com.
He added that “when we return from the tournament, we will look through and see what offer is best for him [Toku].”
The club president had a point. At this stage of Toku’s career, any decision concerning his future must be thoroughly thought about before being pushed through. Giant sides like Manchester City, PSG and Lyon are undoubtedly the dream clubs of many footballers.
It is also true that not many young footballers are lucky enough to court interest from such established clubs. But Toku is only 16 and has a lot more years ahead of him to develop. That is why it would be better to either stay at Cheetah FC or move to a club that would aid in his development.
He doesn’t need to look far to see the perfect example of what a bad career choice at this stage could do to his future. His compatriot Dominic Adiyiah was in a similar situation in 2009, but a poor decision meant that his career is now almost shrouded in uncertainty.
Having scored eight goals to propel the Black Satellites to glory in the 2009 U-20 World Cup, the then-19-year-old was never short of suitors. But his decision to move to Italian giants AC Milan ensured that his career stalled, and unfortunately he has not recovered since.
Not even being farmed out on loan to lower-tier sides could help re-shape his career. Today, Adiyiah – once Ghana’s brightest prodigy – plays in the Thai league for Nakhon Ratchasima, but who is to blame?
Toku’s four goals, coupled with his multiple man-of-the-match awards at the U-17 tournament makes him a hot-cake at the moment. And with the U-17 World Cup also to come in October this year, he might be courting interest from a lot more bigger clubs across Europe.
But the decision he takes now will be the defining moment of his career when he retires. Today he stands as a 16-year-old with the world at his feat, but the masses will not assess his career as the player who joined Manchester City aged 16; they will rather remember him as the player who was a regular with a so-called lower-rated European side at 25.
There are lots of lessons to be learnt from bad career choices of players. The Adiyiah experience is just one. Another is Jack Rodwell’s move to the Ethihad stadium when he was just 18. The English man was on top of his game by then, but his switch to the Citizens reduced his playing time, and subsequently retardated his fledgling career.
Toku’s next move should be centred on gaining much playing time rather than the money involved. That is why he must snub PSG and Manchester City for now, because they cannot guarantee the necessary playing time.
Undoubtedly, Toku is one of Ghana’s brightest prospects at the moment and everyone would like to see him develop and flourish into a world-beater in the next few years. But that dream – as it stands – is largely dependent on his next move.