Atletico Madrid’s Ghanaian midfielder
Partey’s sublime injury-time free kick at the Estadio Razor on Saturday earned Simeone’s wards only their second win in eight games across all competitions. It completed a good personal week for the rangy midfielder after his stunning equaliser earned the Champions League finalists of two seasons ago a much-needed reprieve against Qarabag in midweek during their Champions League group fixture.
As many in the media and social media have said, Its “Partey Time”. He has been written up from Sports Illustrated to ESPN as his stock in world football continues to rise.
Close observers will tell you that time came a long time ago during a remarkable season when he was not wearing the famous red, white and blue of Atletico.
He was wearing the same colours but for the Andalusian outfit called Almeria.
Partey had been sent there on loan during the 2014/15 as part of his development by Atletico after impressing during another loan period at Mallorca in the Segunda the season before. Simeone wanted his protege to gain La Liga experience outside of the super squad he was building with midfield slots the most competitive. Koke had broken through as the jewel in the crown while captain Gabi was untouchable. The wily Portuguese veteran, Tiago was also around if the team needed backup.
Almeria’s season would peter out in relegation but one player stood tall in that period. Partey.
Taking advantage of his increased game time, he became an integral part of the team that season, scoring four goals from midfield and dominating games in a manner many had not thought him capable of. One game stood out that season.
In April of that year, Almeria trudged to the Cap Nou to face mighty Barcelona and were rightly walloped 4-0 by the Catalans with Partey having a potential goal of the season ruled out incorrectly for an off the ball infraction. In that game, La Liga and perhaps Simeone realised he had a player who deserved more chances and could offer a different dimension to his team.Thomas was recalled after that season and turned into a useful impact substitute the past two seasons before his extended stay in the team this season. For him, the patience has been worth it.
"Simeone allowing me time to develop was important and I had to wait for my chances," Partey told KweséESPN. "The manager spoke with me many times in the past to keep me involved and now I am playing more.
"He is great at motivating the players and makes it clear to us how he wants us to play and how we can continue to improve."
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Three years later, he is delivering on the promise of that season. He has become the go to guy for Simeone this season, sometimes even at the expense of the team's captain Gabi and in a team of world-class talent, his elegant play from midfield is leading the way. It is rare to find a primarily defensive midfield player with the right balance of passing, finishing instinct and the engine to boot but that is exactly the kind of player he has become.
Since September, he has scored nine goals for club and country, including a stunning hat-trick for the Black Stars against Congo Brazzaville in World Cup qualification. Every coach loves a player with a sense of occasion and leadership and the aptly named former Tema Youth player knows when to show up on the pitch.
In Ghana, the inevitable comparisons between Party and a legendary midfield dynamo have begun albeit unfairly so. Michael Essien was a once in a lifetime kind of player at his best and Partey could tun out to be just that. He is, however, a different kind of operator and must be allowed to define himself.
For now, Ghanaians and Los Colchoneros have a new hero and his name is Thomas.