The continent’s premier competition can often have a disorienting impact on a player’s season. Regardless of success or failure with the national side, the reality of a return to Africa, of an intense month of competition, and of potential reunion with family and old friends, often makes it difficult for players to return seamlessly to the demands of European leagues.
I wrote recently of Nosa Igiebor, who, after being a peripheral component of Nigeria’s Afcon-winning squad, took a month to return to club side, Real Betis. The unprofessional delay has contributed to the fans’ dissatisfaction with the creative midfielder, and the interruption of the Cup of Nations has disrupted his chance to make a good impression on the supporters who have struggled to identify with him.
Kwadwo Asamoah is a much more high profile character than Igiebor, but, in very different conditions, he too has struggled to return to club duties.
Before the Cup of Nations, I was one of many journalists tipping the Ghanaian midfielder to be one of the tournament’s stars; I even went as far as identifying him as the player most likely to steal the show in South Africa.
My recommendation was based both on the player’s intrinsic natural ability; his power, pace, creativity and delightful footballing technique—but also on the impressive start he had made to his Juventus career. Since arriving in Turin, following an impressive tutelage with Udinese, "Asa" adapted easily to the demands of playing for an elite European club side.
In his first six months with the Italian champions, he was employed regularly on the left flank, providing energy, dynamism and drive from a wider position. Despite this encouraging new vocation, the future surely sees the Ghanaian back doing what he does best: commanding the middle of the park, pulling the strings and also contributing to the side’s creative, attacking approach.
I had hoped that Asamoah would finally fulfill this role with the Black Stars during the Cup of Nations, and potentially outgrow former national icons Stephen Appiah and Michael Essien. In principle, he is somewhere close to the complete midfielder, but was worryingly impotent during some gutless performances in Ghana’s disappointing Cup of Nations performance.
Following these underwhelming outings, and Asamoah’s inability to inspire or lift his team, a malaise has followed him back to Serie A.
During his time away in South Africa, his place in the side was taken by Federico Peluso, and since returning to Italy, the Ghanaian has predominantly had to content himself with watching on. Peluso has delivered a string of impressive performances, and, struggling for form, Asamoah has often found himself out of the first XI.
He missed out altogether in the Champions League defeat to Juventus, and It was not until April that he actually managed to play a full 90 minutes for Juve since returning.
It seems, however, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Speaking to Football Italia, he admitted that since returning from South Africa he had failed to meet the high standards he had previously set for himself. The Ghanaian cited a deterioration in both physical and mental energy as the reason for his decline, and reassuringly for Juventus fans, those aren’t issues that should take too long to overcome.
Asamoah was confident that he was close to returning to his best form, and revealed that the opportunity to play out wide has helped him to become a more rounded competitor.
Unlike at the Cup of Nations, Asa has also demonstrated that he is capable of having an influence over the very biggest encounters. Against Milan this weekend it was he that won the penalty that secured Juventus three valuable points over their rivals, while against Internazionale in late March he opened his account for his new club, scoring in a 2-1 victory.
With the Old Lady only a matter of points away from retaining their title, it won’t be long before Kwadwo can celebrate the end of his mixed year with a first Serie A title. I, for one, don’t imagine it will be his last.
Despite the indifferent close to his season, Asamoah has done enough during the year to impress both the hierarchy and the fanbase at Juventus. SpyGhana reported that Antonio Conte was keen to seal full ownership of the midfielder by buying out the remaining half of his rights from Udinese.
A fee of €9 million to secure the star would certainly appear to be money well spent, and be it on the left or in the centre, I envisage a long and glorious relationship for Asamoah and the Old Lady of Turin. In the context of what I hope will be a long and illustrious career, I see the last six months as being little more than a blip for this talented West African.