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Sports Features of Saturday, 5 January 2013

Source: Gary Al-Smith

Why Derek's destiny lies in Fulham decision

Derek Boateng is on the verge of completing a deal with the Cottagers, but understands that there is a small caveat. Reports say the player may lose his contract if he plays for Ghana at the African Cup.

He must be the unluckiest man in the Black Stars camp at the moment - after Yahaya Mohammed, obviously. The Dnipro midfielder has waited almost three years for this move to come to fruition, but the timing could not have been worse.

Kwesi Appiah trusted his talents enough to call him into the then 26-man team despite his severe lack of playing time with the Ukrainian side. Now, with just over a fortnight to kickoff of Ghana's first game, Derek has to decide whether to forfeit his place in the Black Stars, or serve his country at the expense of his career.

Side one
Derek Boateng had a bust up with Juande Ramos, the former Real Madrid boss now in charge of Dnipro. The player then vowed that he would leave the Ukrainians at the least opportunity, a statement which effectively relegated him to the bench.

He has hardly played for the side, leaving his place in the national team up for grabs. That notwithstanding, Kwesi Appiah has been unafraid to use the combative player in crucial World Cup and African Cup qualifiers, and he has always delivered.

A few weeks ago, Kwesi Appiah named Boateng as part of his preliminary team for the tournament, a decision which drew criticism of "hypocrisy" from pundits who believed the gaffer was being selective in the application of principle. The Stars coach has always maintained that club form was a key criteria for any player that will play under his watch.

So, why was Derek chosen, while others like Samuel Inkoom were dropped for lack of club time?

The answer can be found in Appiah's first press conference upon his appointment as coach. "Of course consistency is the important thing I will look at when selecting players. But I must say that experience and discipline will play a big role too," he had explained when journalists had asked for what he would look for in players.

Clearly, the former Ghana captain foresaw a situation where some of his key men will not be regulars in their clubs, but will be vital to his plans.

Now that Derek had been chosen because the coach trusted him, it was up to the player to vindicate the confidence shown in him. Until this moment.

Side two
Boateng's career needs a boost, and in being called up for Ghana, the African Cup is a great chance for the player to tell other clubs of his existence. As it is, Martin Jol at Fulham has never doubted the experienced player's abilities, having chased Boateng for several transfer windows.

Fulham have asked the player to help them stay up and not go to South Africa. On the face of it, Derek must put his country first, but practically, his future after the three week tournament is also at stake.

Imagine finishing his time with Ghana and sitting on the bench at Dnipro at the end of the season. And then, imagine if he signs for Fulham, plays for them and gets sharp in arguably the world's best league. What should he do?

He has to quickly come to a conclusion with the FA, and depending on his ambitions and priorities, he would make a choice.