In Italy, Roma’s youth academy is considered one of the best when it comes to developing young players who go on to succeed in Serie A careers.
Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi are the standard-bearers for the Giallorossi, and this season Lorenzo Pellegrini has taken great strides towards one day joining that duo as a homegrown legend at the Stadio Olimpico. This season looks like it will be Felix Afena-Gyan’s turn.
Promoted to the senior ranks by Jose Mourinho as his side began to falter in October, most would expect the 18-year-old to play some role, making an odd appearance strange on the bench to gain experience.
Then Sunday night’s clash with Genoa changed everything.
With the game goalless entering the final 15 minutes, Afena-Gyan was substituted in an attempt to energize his performance. Eight minutes later, the teenager’s first shot nestled into the low corner to give the visitors the lead. Then in injury time, he hit a thunderous shot from 25m into the top corner to seal a 2-0 victory for Mourinho’s army.
“I promised him that [if he scored] I’ll buy him a pair of shoes that he really likes, for $900,” Mourinho revealed to DAZN after watching Afena-Gyan become the third-youngest foreign player to score the most goals. in a Serie A match.
“He came up to me and told me not to forget it. Tomorrow morning, I’ll go buy them.”
Mourinho has been good with his word, as Afena-Gyan posted a video on Monday of him receiving new boots from the two-time Champions League winner.
How did Felix Afena-Gyan sign for Roma?
From Ghana’s Sunyani district to Mourinho buying him a coach in the Eternal City, Afena-Gyan has come a long way in just a short amount of time.
Until 2018, the youngster’s only real competitive soccer ball came to the school team before he was signed to EurAfrica FC academy, a youth football project founded only in 2018.
There, he continued to impress scouts – including Morgan De Sanctis and Roma’s Simone Lo Schiavo – and although he has never played for any Ghanaian league side or for country as a young international, he suddenly became the subject of a transfer- a battle between Roma and AC Milan in January 2021.
Roma won, in part due to one of the most famous comebacks in the Champions League in recent years.
“It’s been amazing. It’s been a dream come true for me,” he told BBC Sport after moving to Europe. “Roma made a lasting impression on me that night against Barcelona (in April 2018), and so being a part of this great club now is certainly a dream come true.” real.”
Afena-Gyan wasted little time making an impact at his dream club, scoring three goals in his first four games for the Under-18s before being quickly transferred to Primavera (substitute). , with whom he scored four goals and assisted two in the match. 15 appearances to end the campaign.
He started again at the start of the 2021-22 season, scoring six goals in just five games at Primavera to catch Mourinho’s eye and making his first-team debut against Cagliari on 27 October.
His pace and power helped turn that game around in Roma’s late favor, and his second game was against Genoa three and a half weeks later.
Afena-Gyan’s Football Future
As a 100-meter sprinter during his athletics school days, it was Afena-Gyan’s pace that gave him the edge since his move to Italy, but his finishing and His ballless moves are also encouraging for a striker who can play anywhere on the path of transition.
Aside from his material gifts, Mourinho also noted his humility, even as his agent, Oliver Arthur, insisted Afena-Gyan had lofty ambitions.
“He’s a player with a lot of confidence, speed and power. His greatest strength is his ability to score,” Arthur told BBC Sport. “He also has the personality of wanting to be the best in the world, and has already started working towards that.
“His move has changed a lot the perception of African talent. Most people think it is impossible to move directly from Africa to the big clubs in Europe, but he has paved the way. and prove it’s possible.”
It’s no surprise that the eyes of Ghanaian football are on him, and reports suggest he has been considered for his first full international call-up for World Cup qualifiers. in November.
Afena-Gyan turned down the opportunity, feeling he was not ready to represent the Black Stars as it continued to develop his game.
Many at Roma feel that development could include a move on loan in January but, after heroic games in Serie A, he is unlikely to be let go by Mourinho any time soon.