Ghana’s Thomas Partey is at the crossroads. The Atletico Madrid midfielder faces a distressing dilemma.
For the past five years, Partey has grown, his game maturing. Emerging from obscurity to fight his way into one of Europe’s top clubs, Partey has earned his spot. Now, Simeone seems to rely on Partey’s industry to win games.
Simeone has shown loyalty to Partey, being patient with the midfielder’s growth through loan spells with clubs like Mallorca and UD Almeria, as well as time with Atletico B.
Partey, too, with a cool head and a steady trust for the process, has benefitted from the waiting game, the fruits of which have shown in how he has become a regular at the Wanda Metropolitano.
As far as midfielders go, Partey now ranks with the elite. He has one of the best interception rates in Europe and, complemented by his tough tackling and long range passing, has now drawn comparisons with the likes Paul Pogba and Wilfred Ndidi.
His skill set has made him a hot cake on the market, attracting interest from England, especially. The likes of Arsenal and Manchester United are keen on making him the Premier League’s latest Ghanaian import, with hopes of harnessing the kind of impact his compatriot Michael Essien had on the English top flight many seasons ago.
But there’s also the possibility of extending his stay at Atletico.
The Rojiblancos are keen to inflate his release clause, currently set at £43.5 million, to fend off suitors – especially given that Arsenal are reported to be prepared to pay the current amount to bolster Mikel Arteta’s squad. The Madrid club is also willing to double his salary, currently set at £65,000-a-week.
The covid-19 pandemic, which has brought all football leagues to a halt, has left Partey with a lot of time on his hands to reflect on his journey and decide on his future.
Partey, who turns 27 next month, signed with Atletico Madrid in 2011. It took him four years to make his debut, in a match against Espanyol in November 2015. In January the following year, he scored his first goal for the club against Levante, and has since gone on to make close to 175 appearances across five seasons.
His first Champions League goal, a stunning long range effort against Qarabag in February 2017, and a man-of-the-match performance against Atletico’s arch-rivals Real Madrid on his 100th appearance for the club, remain some of the highlights of his time at the club, which has seen him win the Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup.
His meteoric rise in Spain has also fuelled his rise to prominence with the Ghana national team: he made his Black Stars debut a year after featuring for Atletico, and has gone on to win 27 caps with 10 goals.
Former Ghana international Nii Odartey Lamptey, whose move from PSV to Aston Villa in 1994 marked the beginning of a downward spiral for a talent once compared to Pele, has advised Partey to stay in Spain. Lamptey’s argument is that a move to the Premier League may be detrimental to Partey’s progression, as it had been for him, because his style of play may be at odds with the new terrain.
So, should Partey stay or should he leave?
With his current deal, signed in March 2018, ending in three years’ time, all eyes are on Partey, a major figure for club and country, whose next move, by all indications, will be crucial as he approaches the peak years of his fascinating career.
By David Kofi Tei