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Africa Cup of Nations

Ex-Juventus striker Richmond Boakye still working to realise Gyan comparisons

4:05 AM GMT+8 14/01/2022
Richmond Boakye Juventus
The Ghana forward finally has the opportunity to make a mark in his stuttering international career

Once upon a time, Richmond Boayke appeared primed to be Africa’s next great striking sensation.

Signed by Juventus in 2013 following some outstanding goalscoring performances with Sassuolo, he was already a Ghana international, as his six-foot frame and sharp instincts in the box had prompted parallels with Asamoah Gyan.

Both players are Ghanaian strikers, they launched their careers in Italy and both played in Chinese football, but that’s roughly where the similarities end, with Gyan registering over a half-century of goals, and Boakye yet to hit double figures during a stuttering decade-long international career.

“I’m honoured for you to compare me to Gyan, a player who made a big impact in the national team,” he told GOAL. “I saw these comparisons and I read them, but I had injuries when I came back from China and they certainly slowed me down.”

Despite being on Juve’s books for three years — albeit as part of a co-ownership deal first with Genoa and then with Atalanta — he never made a senior appearance for the Old Lady, and departed permanently in June 2015.

Rather than being the proper home he surely needed at that stage of his development — still only in his early 20s — Boayke’s nomadic career took in spells in Spain and the Netherlands, and he only truly rediscovered his momentum when he moved to Serbian giants Red Star Belgrade.

Injuries begun to take a grip on the one-time Football Manager darling's career — 18 games were missed in the 2018-19 season -- and a move to China with Jiangsu Suning was brief and unproductive.

He also believes a stop-start international career might be the cause of — rather than a symptom of — his inability to reach the heights once projected, with the 2021 Nations Cup Boakye’s first tournament with the national side since the 2013 Afcon some nine years ago.

“To get to the level that Gyan had, you need consistency, you need to have belief, you need belief in the national team and you need people to support you,” he continued. “In one day, you can’t just achieve something, you have to give us the time.

“You need to take three-four strikers, believe in them and work with them,” he added. “We may not achieve what he did, but we can get to half of it.

“The players must have belief — of the national team and the country — to work hard and achieve what the others did.”

The 2021 Nations Cup represents a glorious opportunity for Boayke, who, at 28, finds himself with Beitar Jerusalem following a goalless spell in Polish football with Gornik Zabrze, to make up for lost time with the national side.

Since netting on his debut against China in Guangzhou in 2012, and starring as they clinched bronze at the U-20 World Cup in 2013, he’s been undervalued by a series of Black Stars managers.

After making three appearances in 2013, he was overlooked completely in 2014, for example, and only made his comeback to the side under Milovan Rajevac in 2021 following a four-year exclusion from international duties.

Ghana struggled to impose themselves offensively against Morocco in their opening Afcon defeat, but Boakye has been tipped to make an impact as they look to get their campaign off the ground against Gabon on Friday.

“You have Jordan [Ayew], me, Benjamin [Tetteh],” Boakye continued. "The first game was not for us, we couldn’t get the chances or use them, but I think against Gabon something better is going to come out, we’re going to score.

“As a striker I think that when the first chance is missed, you have to focus on the second chance,” he concluded, “and I think [on Friday] we will win.

“The strikers will make an impact and everyone will see.”