In Italy, Roma’s youth academy is considered one of the most prolific when it comes to developing young people who enjoy successful careers in Serie A.
Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi are the standard bearers for the Giallorossi, and this season Lorenzo Pellegrini has made great strides towards one day joining that duo as a local legend at the Stadio Olimpico. This season it seems that it will be the turn of Felix Afena-Gyan.
Pushed to the senior ranks by José Mourinho when his team began to falter in October, most expected the 18-year-old to play a supporting role, making a cameo off the bench in an attempt to gain experience.
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Then Sunday night’s clash with Genoa changed everything.
With the goalless match entering the final 15 minutes, Afena-Gyan was introduced as a substitute in an attempt to inject some energy into his team’s performance. Eight minutes later, the teenager’s first shot was in the bottom corner to give the visitors the advantage. Then, in injury time, he unleashed a 25-yard bolt into the top corner to secure a 2-0 road win for Mourinho’s men.
“I promised you [if he scored] I would buy her a pair of shoes that she really likes, which cost $ 900, ”Mourinho revealed to DAZN after watching Afena-Gyan become the third-youngest foreign player to score multiple 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 was true to his word, as Afena-Gyan posted a video Monday in which he receives his new footwear from the two-time Champions League-winning coach.
How did Felix Afena-Gyan sign with Roma?
From the Sunyani district of Ghana to Mourinho buying her slippers in the Eternal City, Afena-Gyan has come a long way in a short time.
Until 2018, the youngster’s only real competitive soccer came to his school side before enrolling in the EurAfrica FC academy, a youth soccer project that was only established in 2018.
There he continued to impress scouts, including Roma’s Morgan De Sanctis and Simone Lo Schiavo, and although he had never played for any of Ghana’s league teams or for the country as a youth international, he suddenly became the theme of a transfer flip. war between Rome and AC Milan in January 2021.
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Roma won, in part due to one of the Champions League’s most famous comebacks in recent years.
“It’s amazing. It’s a dream come true for me,” he told BBC Sport after his move to Europe. “Roma left a lasting impression on me that night against Barcelona (in April 2018), so being a part of this incredible club now is definitely a dream come true.”
Afena-Gyan wasted little time making an impact at the club of his dreams, scoring three goals in his first four games for the U-18 squad before being quickly promoted to Primavera (reserve), for whom he scored four and attended two in 15 appearances to end the campaign.
He kicked again at the start of the 2021-22 season, scoring six times in just five Primavera games to get Mourinho’s attention and make his first-team debut against Cagliari on October 27.
Their pace and power helped turn that game in favor of Roma in the end, and their second appearance was against Genoa three and a half weeks later.
The footballing future of Afena-Gyan
A 100-meter sprinter during his athletic days at school, it’s Afena-Gyan’s speed that has given him an advantage since moving to Italy, but his ability to shoot and move off the ball is also encouraging for a forward who can play anywhere in the territory. line of advance.
Aside from his physical gifts, Mourinho has also noted his humility, even if his agent, Oliver Arthur, insists that Afena-Gyan has great ambitions.
“He is a player with a lot of confidence, pace and power. His most significant strength is his ability to score,” Arthur told BBC Sport. “He also has the character of wanting to be the best in the world, and he’s started working towards that.”
“His movement is already changing a lot of perceptions about African talent. Most people thought it was not possible to go directly from Africa to the big clubs in Europe, but it has led the way and shown that it is possible.”
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Unsurprisingly, Ghanaian soccer’s eyes are now on him, with reports suggesting that he was being considered for a first call-up of the full international team for the November World Cup qualifiers.
Afena-Gyan turned down the opportunity, feeling that he was not ready to represent Black Stars as he continues to develop his game.
Many in Roma felt the development could include a loan move in January, but, after his Serie A heroics, Mourinho is unlikely to fire him anytime soon.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.