MADRID – European soccer players seemed to be more valued than African counterparts, Atletico Madrid and Ghana midfielder Thomas Partey said in an interview with EFE on Thursday.
Partey added that even the most distinguished African players, such as Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure (who has played for Barcelona and Manchester City) Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o (who played for Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea) or even Ivorian retired striker Didier Drogba (who played for Marseille and Chelsea) were not good enough to win the coveted Ballon d’Or trophy.
The 25-year-old midfielder, who joined Atletico’s youth system at age 19, said some people felt that African soccer players are of lower quality and hence cheaper than European players who have come up through the ranks of clubs.
When asked about his club’s upcoming Saturday match against bitter crosstown rivals Real Madrid, Partey said he anticipated a difficult game, given the giant club’s recent good form, last seen during Madrid’s Cope del Rey first leg clash with Barcelona at the Camp Nou which ended in a hard-fought 1-1 draw despite the second-half appearance by Lionel Messi.
The Ghanaian player discussed the Clasico draw between Madrid and Barcelona in the semifinal of the Copa and said he did not feel the result would have any effect on his side for the upcoming derby game.
Partey underscored the fact that his team had to focus on what they have to do during the game, which is due to be held in Atletico’s home pitch, the modern Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Notably this season, Atletico has yet to lose a game at home which, Partey explained, fills his team with confidence.
According to Partey, the fans’ support has played a key role in Atletico’s unbeaten run at Wanda Metropolitano and added that his club has tried to reward its fans for their support.
After 22 matches, Atletico is second-place in the La Liga standings with 44 points, six points behind leader Barcelona but, crucially. two points ahead of Madrid after 22 matches played.
Atletico failed to take advantage of Barcelona’s 2-2 draw against Valencia on Feb. 2 to narrow the gap as it lost away the following day to Real Betis 1-0, a slender defeat that also cut Atletico’s lead over Madrid.
Asked whether his team, given the six-point deficit behind Barcelona, is still in the hunt for the La Liga title, Partey said he hoped the Catalan club might lose one of its upcoming matches.
However, whether or not Barcelona has a loss, Partey said Atletico must get the job done and win games in order to have a chance at going for the league title.
Partey has been getting more playing time in the wake of injuries to Spain midfielders Saul Ñiguez and Jorge Resurreccion (better known as Koke) but a rejuvenated Ñiguez and Koke may spell a return to the bench for the Ghanaian.
When asked if he will continue to play when Atletico’s injured Spain midfielders return to the pitch, Partey highlighted the importance of having all his teammates available during this decisive part of the team’s 2018-2019 campaign.
Partey said he was aware that he still had room for improvement and that he was keen to follow his coach’s instructions.