He's the starting central midfielder for a perennial African powerhouse and a World Cup quarterfinalist. He's still just 23 but has already amassed 43 caps for his country and drawn rave reviews, not just in South Africa but at the last two Africa Cups of Nations. So the question is: why does
No disrespect intended, but Annan has played in Europe for four years, which means scouts have had plenty of time to evaluate him. And yet, he's still there, at Rosenborg, a powerhouse in Norway, but a relative backwater continent-wide.
Add him to the category of players who thrive in a system. He's Ghanaian soccer's answer to
The knock on Annan is that -- as one scout put it -- he's "one-dimensional". He's one-paced and at just 5-foot-9, doesn't dominate the middle of the park physically. He's an adequate passer who can keep the ball, but comes up short in terms of both the creativity to spot a pass and the technique to pull it off. And while he's gutsy, plays with gusto and reads the game well, he's not really going to progress.
All of that may be true. But put him in a Ghana shirt, stick him in the middle of the park and witness the transformation. Simply put, Annan is the pilot light that keeps the Ghanaian fire burning.
Who ensures that playmaker
Who shields John Mensah and
Get the picture? In fact, sometimes you feel as if there are several Annans on the pitch, such is the phenomenal ground he covers.
In fact, there is just one, doing his Clark Kent thing, from middling role player in a middling league to midfield dynamo on one of Africa's strongest teams. It works within Ghana's system because the qualities of the players around him are so clearly defined. Annan complement his teammates perfectly. He'll team up with the Boateng, providing the mobility to match his teammate's muscle defensively while doing double duty when the big man goes forward. Equally, his presence and selflessness allows Asamoah to do what he does best: create. Put Annan next to two different midfielders -- however good -- and the result might well be different. At least that's what the scouts seem to think.
But in Ghana's system, he's invaluable. The wingers -- usually
When we speak of "specialists" in the game we usually mean goalkeepers. But Annan is part of a different breed, the defensive midfielder, charged not just with winning the ball but dictating the restart after a change of possession It's what some call the (
You could say Annan's uber-specialization works against him. To some degree, ti's true, why tie up money in a guy who might not be able to perform if you change your system? But maybe another reason he has yet to taste the big time at club level has to do with his athleticism. He's no