For every young Ghanaian footballer, the ultimate dream is making it in one of Europe’s top professional leagues. And while it is true that the country is rich with sporting talent, only a handful realize that ambition and earn the right to play on the biggest stage.
Stars like Stephen Appiah, Asamoah Gyan, Tony Yeboah, Michael Essien and Abedi Peli have blazed a trail during the last 30 years; each has certainly played a role in inspiring the next generation and helping to entrench soccer’s status as the national sport.
And in this article, we will focus on a player who followed in their footsteps, currently making a name for himself in Spain. Thomas Teye Partey is one of an even smaller number of Ghanaian-born players to appear in La Liga, making his success even more special.
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Born in Krobo Odumase, Thomas’s career started at home with Odometah FC, where he spent a single season as an 18-year-old before being snapped up by Atletico Madrid. Just under two years later he graduated from the club’s youth ranks and into Atletico’s B team, making his debut in 2013.
His rapid rise would continue with a call-up to the senior squad, named as a sub for a clash against Real Sociedad in March. His debut would have to wait, however, and Thomas would instead grasp his opportunity through loan spells with Mallorca and Almeria, making more than 60 appearances in total.
The senior experience would prove vital for the youngster, whose performances as a defensive midfielder saw his reputation rise. Thomas would return to Atleti ahead of the 2015 season and his first-team debut would soon follow.
At the top table
By now, Thomas was ready to take his place at the top table of European football. Atletico were recognized as one of Europe’s biggest clubs, regularly challenging for silverware domestically, and reaching major finals in the Champions League and the Europa League.
Earning an opportunity with such a powerful club would not come easy, but that box was ticked on 28 November, when he replaced Luciano Vietto in a win against Espanyol. His first league goal would follow in the new year as his star continued to rise.
Thomas’s performances in the months and years that followed saw a club and competition wake up to his talents, to the extent that Atletico would hand him an extended deal that would keep him in the Spanish capital until at least the end of the 2021/22 season.
The impressive Thomas reached another milestone in September last year, making his 100th La Liga appearance on one of club football’s biggest stages – the Madrid derby against cross-city rivals Real – with Thomas helping Atletico secure a point.
Thomas’s performances had not escaped the attention of his coaches back home and his first call-up for the Black Stars would come in May 2016. His first appearance was under former Chelsea manager Avram Grant and he would go on to play a crucial role for his country in pivotal qualification matches. However, they are still seen as a major underdog in the international football betting with odds of 200/1 to win the 2022 World Cup.
Those exploits included a hat-trick in a 5-1 win against Congo, which helped underline his true attacking potential.
And his performances during this period earned him no shortage of plaudits from national media, culminating in him being named Ghana Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019.
With a long-term deal at Atleti in place, his spot at national level seemingly secure, and speculation linking him with a move to England, it appears there’s still so much to come from this exciting 26-year-old. And his journey from the youth ranks of Odometah to the higher echelons of the La Liga will likely provide inspiration for another generation of hungry young Ghanaians.