Ahead of this weekend’s Madrid derby, CitiSports’ Daniel Koranteng looks at the evolution of Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, who has risen to become one of the most important players at the Madrid club
Karim Abdul Razak, Mohammed Gargo, Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah are some of the most notable names which come to mind when you think of prominent Ghanaian midfielders, and one name will soon be fit to be considered in this elusive company.
Thomas Teye Partey has fast become one of Europe’s most talked about midfielders after his blistering form in 2017 for both club and country. The Atletico Madrid midfielder who after a slow start to his Atletico career has slowly worked his way into the plans of manager Diego Simeone, and is now just one start away from equaling his total tally from the previous two seasons combined. Partey is the embodiment of your typical African central midfielder, possessing immense physical attributes in addition to his exceptional technique. Standing tall at a height of 1.82m, Partey is also very imposing figure on the pitch with the added bonus of having in the aerial advantage over opponents.
Partey joined the 2014 La Liga Champions in 2011 as an 18-year-old from Ghanaian side Odometah FC but only made his first senior appearance for the side three years later in a home win against Espanyol after spending 2 years on loan at Mallorca and Almeria. Partey, in the last two seasons, has largely been used off the bench getting very limited time on the pitch. He made 9 starts in the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 seasons combined, but there was no doubt about Partey’s potential as he continuously showed glimpses of his abilities in the limited time he was given on the pitch.
Partey’s decision to accept a 5 year contract renewal from Atletico in the summer of 2017 came as a surprise to many who thought a move away from the club would’ve provided him more opportunities to shine. But fast forward to 2017/2018 and the Ghana international is almost the first name on the Atletico team sheet.
Partey has started all but 3 of Atletico’s league games this season scoring twice and producing two Man of the Match performances. His 90th-minute winner against Deportivo this season summed up the sort of influence he’s had on the Madrid club this season. He has however been quick to praise his club manager Diego Simeone for his transformation this season. Simeone gave Partey his debut at the club and was the main reason why the Ghana international signed the contract extension with the club.
“Simeone allowing me time to develop was important and I had to wait for my chances. The manager spoke to me many times in the past to keep me involved and now I am playing more.
“He is great at motivating the players and makes it clear to us how he wants us to play and how we can continue to improve,” Partey said.
Partey’s remarkable evolution has also been seen in his performances with the Black Stars. The midfielder who made his debut for the side in June last year under former Head Coach Avram Grant, has grown to become arguably the most important player for the Black Stars. He showed glimpses of his true potential at the AFCON this year where he was one of the standout players in the Black Stars team which lost in the semifinals to eventual champions Cameroon. He scored his first goal for the team in September in a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Congo at the Baba Yara Stadium grabbing a late equalizer for the team in a 1-1 draw. Partey then went on to cement his status as one of the Africa’s leading midfielders when his hat-trick against Congo days after, in the return leg of the qualifier helped Ghana to an impressive 5-1 win in Brazzaville.
Partey is made up of the power of Essien and the attacking mind and drive of Yaya Toure. His tactical discipline and ability to read the game is what sets him apart from the rest. The central midfielder’s versatility has also come to light in recent weeks in his performances for the Madrid based side. As evidenced by the heat maps above, Partey has exhibited a tremendous versatile ability, akin to what Essien had in his prime days. In the game against Deportivo, he spent his 90 minutes powering up and down the right side of midfield; and in the game against Chelsea, he excelled playing centrally – a testament to his overall prowess as a midfield general. It seems that Simeone has finally found a way to fit his Ghanaian gem in his side, and this new role is working to perfection.
The story of Partey is one of sheer will and determination to succeed; the young man who left the shores of Ghana as a teenager, and had to adapt to a completely different culture and way of life, while having to focus on his football. From struggling to make the bench to becoming a fan favourite, Partey has arrived and the world is taking notice!