Sports Features of Thu, 23 Aug 20184

Can Kwadwo Asamoah make up for lost time with the Black Stars?

Juventus left nothing on the table with their effusive praise of Kwadwo Asamoah as the Ghana international ended his stay with the Italian champions and moved to Inter Milan in July.

The midfielder completed a second major career swerve on Wednesday as he ended his four-year international exile to return to the Black Stars fold.

However, while Asamoah now has an opportunity to make up for lost time, both at club level and with the national side, it's hard to shake the lingering sense that he'll never come close to fulfilling the promise he once demonstrated.

The Turin giants' heartfelt note of thanks to the 29-year-old upon his exit - he was their second-longest serving player at the time of his departure - celebrated both his trophy haul and his on-field qualities during his six-year spell in northern Italy.

There was a lot to celebrate.

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Certainly, in terms of Asamoah's honours list, few African players in the history of the game can match his consistent and concentrated spell of success with the Old Lady.

Six domestic titles in six years is a magnificent haul, and while Bruce Grobbelaar in England and Sammy Kuffour in Germany equalled that return with Liverpool and Bayern Munich, they each took over a decade to do so.

None of the continent's stars can match his spell of domestic success with a single club in a major European league.

Admittedly, he fell just short of clinching Europe's grandest prize in two Champions League finals, but it's hard to deny that Asamoah's 'loyalty' to Juve and his commitment to focusing on his fitness rather than international responsibilities in recent years has reaped significant rewards.

However, while Juve benefitted - albeit fleetingly - from the wideman's services (he's made no more than 19 league appearances in any season since 2013-14), Ghana fans have seen nothing of the former Udinese man during his would-be prime.

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Despite taking part in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in late 2014, he'd play no part in the tournament itself as Ghana reached the final, and would also miss out on the 2017 competition as the Black Stars finished fourth.

Indeed, Avram Grant never had the benefit of the Juve man's talents during the entirety of his tenure, and it's not unreasonable to wonder how a player of Asamoah's big-game experience and temperament might have helped the Stars over the line as they just fell short against the Ivory Coast and Cameroon respectively.

It could have been a similar story during the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, where a Ghana team lacking unity and - it appeared - character, were left in Egypt's wake.

Counting the 'what ifs?' is something of a futile task, particularly considering the many injury concerns that Asamoah has had to battle, but Ghana fans - like those of Cameroon - can surely wonder what their side might have achieved had they had all of their top talents on the pitch more consistently over the last five years.

As well as Asamoah, Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Kevin-Prince Boateng, latterly, the Ayew Brothers and Asamoah Gyan have demonstrated something of a casual attitude to squad selection.

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Asamoah's had his reasons, but had the six-time Serie A champion hoisted his loyalties to the mast and made the Black Stars his priority, a few others might have followed.

A player of his clout and club profile could realistically have this kind of impact on his compatriots, and he could have established a more professional tone for the often-troubled West Africans.

On the field, it would have been intriguing to have seen what Asamoah could have brought out of his colleagues - particularly since 2016 - and how he would have been used by Grant.

At left-back, with Abdul Baba Rahman and Jeffrey Schlupp, Ghana have been well-stocked, although he would have represented an upgrade on either central-midfield options Wakaso Mubarak or Afriyie Acquah.

Perhaps Gyan and Jordan, with a midfield diamond of Asamoah, Andre, Christian Atsu and Thomas Partey might have been the most effective solution - and they'd surely have fancied their chances of overpowering their Cameroonian counterparts in the 2017 semi in Franceville.

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Returning to the fold now, at 29 and with the 2019 Nations Cup on the horizon, he has the opportunity to truly leave a lasting mark on one major international tournament after his promising showing in 2013.

The Black Stars are a different collective now than when he left them in 2014, but there's certainly talent enough at Appiah's disposal - and a host of high-profile players ready to be coaxed back - for Ghana to enjoy a deep run into the tournament in Cameroon.

Asamoah's injury record means that he's not the player around whom the new side should be built, but his technical quality, versatility and experience make him a superb new asset for Appiah to call upon.

Too late to make up for lost time, yes, but the 2019 AFCON may yet represent a worthy sign-off to Asamoah's frustrating Black Stars career.

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