You are here: HomeSports2020 04 23Article 931936

Sports Features of Thursday, 23 April 2020


Glory not Arsenal: Why should Partey part with Atletico Madrid?

Thomas Partey Thomas Partey

It’s been a while since a Ghanaian footballer made serious headlines as a major transfer target on the European market, which is why it feels quite good to see Thomas Partey being pursued by some of the continent’s biggest clubs.

Arsenal are hottest on his trail, with manager Mikel Arteta prioritizing the acquisition of a midfielder in the mold of legendary Gunners skipper Patrick Vieira. They don’t make many like the extraordinary Frenchman anymore, and Partey is just one of a few who could fill those huge boots — little wonder Arsenal have reportedly made moves to activate his release clause and prise him away from Atleti.

England, Partey admits, would be a dream come true.

“The Premier League is a good league, it’s very competitive and has some of the best players in the world,” he told ESPN . “Hopefully, one day. I would like to play there.”

But that was last summer, in an interview during which Partey was cautious enough to add that “[he is] happy playing football . . . where [he is] now until something comes up for consideration.”

Well, in summer of 2020, there will be quite a lot to consider: to move or not to move. And, in the end, it shouldn’t be down to financial motives or realizing a dream of playing in the world’s best league someday. Partey hasn’t celebrated much since breaking into Diego Simeone’s team a few seasons ago — only medals from 2018, when Atleti won the UEFA Europa League and Super Cup, and if you want to count one lost Champions League final.

Simeone’s team is in far better shape for glory than Arsenal in the present and immediate future, however, with the English side still looking a little lost in the Wenger-Emery-Arteta continuum. Consider, too, that Atleti have enjoyed more success than Arsenal since Simeone took charge in 2011 — try balancing the weight of three FA Cups and as many Community Shields with the haul of major domestic and continental trophies with which the Argentine has stocked Los Colchoneros’ cabinet thus far.

Between the more dominant Real Madrid and Barcelona, there are few scraps of silverware for Atleti to pick up in Spain (with less than a third of the season to go, they’re sixth and 11 points off the top, while Basque rivals Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao have taken up the latest Copa del Rey final slots). Still, Atleti look like having a great run in Europe this term, having eliminated reigning European champions Liverpool in some style.

Partey sparkled during that tie, especially in the decisive away leg, convincing Arsenal — watching from close quarters, surely — of his worth. But Simeone — having overseen and nurtured Partey’s development from an unknown, fresh-faced teenager into a potentially world-beating specimen — would want that class, and the midfielder’s prime, for the new Atleti under construction.

Partey, a late bloomer, is already 26 and running out of time to be reckoned among Ghana’s most decorated exports — Abedi Ayew, Samuel Osei Kuffour, Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, et al. And, until a club comes around which offers that prospect with more promise than Atleti do — certainly not Arsenal, right now — the grass is far greener at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Really, why move?