Godfred Donsah is set to leave relegated Cagliari and has a host of admirers lying in wait, writes Adam Digby...
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- Date of birth: June 7, 1996
- Place of birth: Accra, Ghana
- Position: Midfielder/full-back
- Height: 5ft 9in
- Club: Cagliari (23 apps, 2 goals)
- Former club(s): Palermo, Verona (loan)
Godfred Donsah grew up in poverty in Ghana. Occasionally he'd be able to watch Premier League matches at a local bar, idolising the way his compatriot Michael Essien controlled the midfield for Chelsea, and cultivating his dream of becoming a footballer.
Eventually it became a reality when he moved almost 300km across the country to play for DC United Agogo, thus sparking a chain of events that would change his life forever. Sean Sogliano – then sporting director of Palermo – identified Donsah as a target, bringing him to the club for a trial back in 2012.
The shy 15-year-old who arrived in Sicily didn't even own a pair of football boots, and was fortunate that compatriot Afriyie Acquah was at the club to help him become accustomed to life in Italy. Unfortunately, however, his visa expired and forced a premature return home despite having a contract with the Rosanero. Donsah feared that his European adventure had ended before it had ever truly begun.
Yet Sogliano didn't abandon the player, and remained in constant contact even when he left Palermo and took up a role with Hellas Verona. The Italian helped Donsah to get his paperwork in order so he could complete a loan move to the Gialloblu. He spent last season in their youth sector but was handed his Serie A debut, then moved on to Cagliari in the summer where he would cross paths with a coach famous for developing talented prospects at Roma, Foggia and Pescara.
“Zdenek Zeman is teaching me a lot,” Donsah said recently. “He's a coach for young players, and if you follow his instructions you'll become a champion.” The Czech began to field his newest charge with increasing regularity, and soon Donsah became a regular for the Sardinian side. Nonetheless, the 18-year-old's best efforts weren't enough to help Cagliari avoid the drop.
Why you need to know him
His performances for Cagliari have attracted plenty of attention, with scouts from Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham all having travelled to the Stadio Sant’Elia to watch him in action.
They may have to work quickly, however, as La Gazzetta dello Sport last week reported that Serie A champions Juventus are close to agreeing a €6 million move for the teenager.
Capable of playing all across the three-man midfield used by both Cagliari and Hellas Verona, Donsah has also filled in at right-back on occasion, with his energy and tireless effort quickly seeing him become a fan favourite with both clubs. Yet he backs that up with genuine ability: the Ghanaian has netted two goals (from a total of just 13 shots) this season, grabbed an assist and generally displayed superb tactical intelligence that belies his age. Donsah is rarely caught out of position and has also shown excellent skill on the ball, completing an impressive 65% of his take-on attempts this term. Like his idol Essien – who he finally met when Cagliari lost 3-1 to Milan in March – he has shown himself capable of protecting the defence behind him, but also possessing the skill to impact a game when allowed to venture forward.
While he has shown a neat ability to intercept passes, Donsah remains surprisingly poor at tackling and has won just 46% of those contests this term. He's also fairly weak in the air, although that's somewhat understandable given he stands at just 5ft 9 in tall. It's a problem when he has been deployed in defence.
Another area with room for improvement is his passing, having completed just 78% of his attempts this term – although that's a by-product of Zeman’s edict to rush the ball forward at the earliest opportunity. It's something that should also improve with better quality team-mates around him and as his understanding of the game grows, which, given the calibre of club interested in him, seems almost certain to be the case.
Back in October, Donsah was handed a starting spot in midfield for the first time, taking the place of the experienced Daniele Dessena. The Ghanaian repaid that faith fully, turning in an excellent performance as Cagliari recorded a 4-0 win over newly promoted Cagliari. “Donsah played very well and has great quality,” Zeman said at full-time, the old coach beaming at the prospect of having unleashed another young prospect upon Italian football. “The boy runs, has skill and always fights hard. He will be a great help to us.”
Did you know?
If Donsah’s journey to Italy was daunting, it was nothing compared to the one undertaken by his father. Eight years ago, Twaku Tachi boarded a cramped barge in Libya hoping to find a better life for his family, but was forced to leave his wife and four children behind in Accra.
Stowing away in the hold of the ship – an all too common route for those desperate to escape the poverty of Africa – he took up a job picking tomatoes in Puglia and Campania. Donsah's father eventually secured a permanent job at a warehouse in Como and continues to send money back to Ghana, but now his son has bought a new home for the family and his father is set to finally come home.
- Shooting 6
- Heading 6
- Passing 7
- Tackling 7
- Pace 7
- Dribbling 7
- Creativity 6
- Work-rate 9
What happens next?
With Cagliari relegated and a list of top clubs circling, a summer exit seems almost certain for the 18-year-old. Donsah's agent confirmed English interest last week, telling Tuttomercatoweb: “Arsenal, City and Liverpool have expressed an interest, but again nothing official. I also read the news about Juventus but I must say that I haven't talked to Cagliari and Juventus. At present, however, there has been no official contact.”
It's all a far cry from the player's arrival in Italy, but Donsah is fully aware of how far he has come and seems determined to continue with the strong work ethic that has shaped his young career. “I've always been ready to work, as I know that I have to eat and look after my family,” he told La Repubblica. “I'm very careful and will only buy myself a nice car after my career is finished.”