This writer first heard tales of an umber talented midfielder in the youth set ups of Portuguese football from a Black Stars player who could not stop gushing two years ago. His name was Bernard Mensah and according to the player, he was the best talent he had seen in a while. I shelved the name away.
Fast forward to present day and Mensah,20 seems to have delivered on that talent.
Bernard Mensah is not your quintessential looking footballer. He is a shy, skinny kid with an awkward gait who avoids crowds; the kind of person you are bound to walk by and not pay much attention to on a regular day.
His days are however far from regular and he is not lacking attention. He is in demand and a house hold name in a country whose football fans are constantly in search of new heroes to worship.
Mensah is part of a new breed of Ghanaian footballer making waves in European football. He scored on his debut for the national team of Ghana in a friendly against Togo and is linked with some of the biggest names in European football after just a year in top flight football with Vitoria Guimaraes of the Portuguese Primeira Liga. Such is the belief in his talent that super-agent Jorge Mendes paid an arm and a leg to own his economic rights.
He smiles as he recounts his incredible season.
" I just thank God for where I find myself. I have worked hard since I left Feyenoord (now rebranded as the West Africa Football Academy) and to be at this point in my career at my age brings me joy".
Humble words from a player who does not lack in self-belief, a trait that has seen him progress speedily to the top of his trade and not surprisingly for most.
"I have always believed in my abilities. I remember when I was taken to Portugal to try out for Vitoria Guimaraes, I told my agent the club was too small for me" he says with a twinkle in his eye.
"My agent however insisted a club that size would be a good learning curb to help develop my capacity and he was right. I learnt a lot."
He learnt so fast that he dragged Guimaraes' second team back to the Segunda Liga with nine goals in his second season. First team coach Rui Vitorio( now appointed coach of Benfica ) had seen enough and promoted Mensah to his first team. The rest is history.
Mensah credits WAFA for his solid fundamentals. The same proven curriculum that honed fellow Black Stars Christian Atsu, Harrison Afful, Solomon Asante and several other stars at WAFA has laid the foundation for an intelligent all action midfielder who has the world at his feet.
"I was allowed to travel to Rotterdam to train with Feyenoord regularly during my amateur days and it helped me in making a quick transition once I had settled in Portugal".
To watch him play, it is the simplicity of his movement and intelligent use of ball and spatial awareness that make him stand out and also dangerous as he showed with five goals from midfield for Guimaraes in the season gone by.
" I like to dribble and shoot but my first instinct is always to keep it simple because that always moves the game faster for us".
What else do you expect from a player who says he would pick Juventus and Italy metronome Andrea Pirlo as his partner if he had a choice of one?
With his shining brightly and freshly minted as a member of Ghana's Black Stars, Mensah says he is not ready to rest.
"I prayed to score a goal in my debut for Ghana and I did but with all the attention now is the time for me to show more. I have to work harder to maintain. That is the hard part."
Hard it might be but the journey promises to be an interesting one with Mensah and the whole of Ghana will be watching and hoping it ends well.
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