Felix Afena-Gyan: the Roma prodigy offers himself 800 € of new boots in Mourinho

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In Italy, Roma’s youth academy is considered one of the most prolific when it comes to developing young people who embark on successful careers in Serie A.

Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi are the Giallorossi flag bearers, and this season Lorenzo Pellegrini has made great strides to one day join the duo as local legend at Stadio Olimpico.

However, Roma fans are still on the hunt for the next youngster to make his first-team debut, and this season should be Felix Afena-Gyan’s turn.

Propelled into the senior ranks by Jose Mourinho as his squad began to falter in October, most expected the 18-year-old to play a fleeting role, making a bizarre appearance on the bench in an effort to win some l ‘experience.

Then the shock of Sunday evening with Genoa changed everything.

With the game going scoreless in the final 15 minutes, Afena-Gyan was presented as a substitute in an effort to inject energy into his team’s performance.

Eight minutes later, the teenager walked away after his first place huddled in the bottom corner to give the visitors the advantage at Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

He was not done there, as in stoppage time Afena-Gyan grabbed a loose ball before unleashing a 25-yard thunderbolt into the skylight to secure a 2-0 victory for the men from Mourinho.

“I promised him that [if he scored] I would buy him a pair of shoes that he really likes, which costs € 800, “Mourinho revealed to DAZN after watching Afena-Gyan become the third youngest foreign player to score multiple goals in a Serie A game.

“He came to me and told me not to forget him. Tomorrow morning, I’ll go buy them.

“So tomorrow the Primavera (under 19) will play – and I’m sorry for (manager) Alberto De Rossi, but Felix won’t play with them!”

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Mourinho kept his word, as Afena-Gyan posted a video on Monday of him receiving his new shoes from the two-time Champions League-winning coach.

From the Sunyani district in Ghana to Mourinho buying her sneakers in the Eternal City, Afena-Gyan has come a long way in a short space of time.

Until 2018, the youngster’s only real competitive football came from his school before enrolling in the EurAfrica FC academy, a youth football project created in 2018.

There he continued to impress scouts – including Morgan De Sanctis and Simone Lo Schiavo of Roma – and although he never played in any of Ghana’s league teams or for the country as as a young international, he suddenly became the subject of a tug of war transfer. -war between Roma and AC Milan in January 2021.

Roma won, in part thanks to one of the most famous Champions League comebacks in recent years.

“It’s amazing. It’s a dream come true for me,” he said. BBC Sport following his arrival in Europe.

“Roma made a lasting impression on me that night against Barcelona (in April 2018), and so being part of this incredible club now is definitely a dream come true.”

Afena-Gyan wasted no time making an impact on her dream club, scoring three goals in her first four games for the Under-18 team before being quickly promoted to the Primavera squad of De Rossi, for whom he scored four goals and assisted two in 15 appearances to end the campaign.

He restarted at the start of the 2021-22 season, scoring six times in just five Primavera games to catch Mourinho’s attention and make his first-team debut against Cagliari on October 27.

His pace and power helped tip that game in Roma’s favor later, with another senior outing under his belt he made the most of his moment in the sun against Genoa three and a half weeks later.

A 100-meter sprinter during his athletic years at school, it’s Afena-Gyan’s speed that has given him an advantage since moving to Italy, but his finishing ability and movement out of the ball are also encouraging for an attacker who can play anywhere across the front line.

Besides his physical gifts, Mourinho also noted his humility, although his agent, Oliver Arthur, insists Afena-Gyan has big ambitions.

“He’s a player with a lot of confidence, pace and power. His most important strength is his ability to score,” he said. BBC Sport.

“He also has the character of wanting to be the best in the world, and has started working towards that.

“His move is already changing a lot of perceptions about African talent. Most people thought it was not possible to move directly from Africa to big European clubs, but he led the way and proved that it was possible.”

Unsurprisingly, the eyes of the Ghanaian football fraternity are now on him, and reports suggest he was being considered for a first-time call-up for the full international squad for the November World Cup qualifiers.

Afena-Gyan turned down the opportunity, feeling he was not ready to represent the Black Stars as he continues to develop his game.

Many at Roma have felt the development could include a loan transfer in January, but after Sunday’s exploits he is unlikely to be sacked by Mourinho anytime soon.

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