Alfred Duncan does really know how to make a statement, scoring for Fiorentina against giants Juventus in Serie A on Sunday.
It was indeed a strike well-calculated as it came on the final day of the season, just days prior to the anticipated announcement of Ghana’s squad for their upcoming round of June internationals.
Returning to action for the first time since March when they edged Nigeria to the World Cup ticket, the Black Stars are set to take on Madagascar and the Central African Republic in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying before engaging Japan and either Chile or Tunisia at the 2022 Kirin Cup.
Ahead of the big release, Duncan will no doubt be keeping a close eye on his phone in anticipation of a possible ring by coach Otto Addo, having been absent from the national roster since controversially withdrawing from the squad ahead of a World Cup qualifying matches against Zimbabwe last October.
It was indeed a headline-making episode as despite turning down the call-up due to injury, a few days later, he went on to feature for his club in a league game, a fixture which interestingly just preceded the international break.
And although it later emerged that the former Inter Milan man had scheduled a surgery appointment for the break before the international call came through, his excuse did little to quell questions about his international commitment.
Indeed Ghana Football Association president Kurt Okraku, speaking ahead of January’s Afcon, revealed Duncan had been blacklisted, saying he previously “had the opportunity to serve Ghana and did not respond”.
The 29-year-old perhaps made things worse when he promptly tweeted in what was suspected to be a direct reaction to the GFA boss’s statement, saying: “People tarnishing my image in Ghana, I don’t want to start talking for Ghanaians to connect the dots, so please let’s respect ourselves”.
With supposed bad blood between the FA leadership and some other technical officials, it remains to be seen if the Fiorentina man would be considered for a June roster spot, particularly as the Black Stars step up preparations for the World Cup later this year.
One thing that is quite clear is that on the pitch, he has shown enough to show he deserves a place on the team, Saturday’s goal his latest reminder.
In all, the midfielder made 33 Serie A appearances this season, starting in 21 of the games, scoring twice and providing two assists.
And there’s more.
Real Mallorca’s Iddrisu Baba currently holds the starting defensive midfielder slot in the Black Stars, with Arsenal Thomas Partey (central midfield) and Ajax’s Mohammed Kudus (attacking midfield/playmaker) completing a trio.
Duncan’s skill set allows him to play in any of these three positions but central midfield is perhaps his best as he is hardly seen as a classical defensive midfielder or a true playmaker. Unfortunately, however, it is also the one position where he will struggle the most to get into the Black Stars’ starting set-up.
If that is the case, then he should certainly at least get a place on the bench as he looks the best, most experienced, and the closest to Partey in terms of pedigree, experience, style and skillset.
And considering that Ghana’s current bench options include Moldova-based Edmund Addo, Gent man Elisha Owusu and Geman second-tier star Daniel-Kofi Kyereh, only non-footballing reasons may keep the Fiorentina ace out of the Ghana squad.
For the height of the World Cup where Portugal, Uruguay and South Korea await in Group H, Ghana’s midfield will undoubtedly look significantly light and inexperienced should Partey be unavailable for a game or completely miss the tournament for any reason, and that is just another reason why former Inter Milan dynamo Duncan may need to be brought back to the team.
Not that his place is perpetually bound to the bench as depending on systems, he could easily be paired with the Arsenal star in what could make a strong double-pivot.
Duncan’s recent tension with football officials may have dampened his return chances but if Ghana can look past that, it will be one of the best decisions they will make for a possible strong campaign at the World Cup.