It’s consistently fascinating how, in football as in life, one event can have far-reaching unforeseen consequences on many things far beyond the scope of the original incident.
No one could have imagined, for example, when Atletico Madrid signed international U-16 players, subsequently breaching Fifa rules regarding such transfers, the knock-on effect that that could have had on the career of Ghana midfielder Thomas Partey.
Yet the transfer ban meted out to Atleti by Fifa—which prevents the capital club from registering new players until January 2018—threatens to have significant consequences for Partey, who will likely be watching from the stands again on Wednesday as his side face Barcelona in an early battle between the Liga BBVA title rivals despite being included in Diego Simeone’s 20-man squad.
During the summer, the Black Star was linked with the exit door at the Vicente Calderon, not because of any failings on his behalf—anything but—but because his fine performances for Los Colchoneros last season had piqued the interest of Southampton.
Saints, having recently lost Victor Wanyama to Tottenham Hotspur, and perhaps unconvinced that Spaniard Oriol Romeu could be the man to step into the Kenyan’s shoes, were understood to be considering Partey as a potential successor.
Ultimately, no move ever materialised, but the rumours were evidence of the reputation of the Ghana international, who made 13 La Liga appearances and featured in the Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid, is on the rise.
However, optimism that the 23-year-old would build on his showings last term and further establish himself in Simeone’s plans this season has been dampened by his peripheral role so far this term—and that’s putting it generously.
The Black Star is yet to feature for the Spanish giants this campaign and was tellingly overlooked for their 19-man travelling party for their Champions League opener against PSV Eindhoven.
There’s no reason to assume that the midfielder’s performances have contributed to his marginalisation, rather, that the increased competition in Simeone’s squad—Kevin Gameiro and Nico Gaitan were signed to some fanfare during the summer—has boosted the manager’s options and placed obstacles in Partey’s pathway.
As the season wears on, and as injuries and suspensions begin to take their toll, he will likely get his opportunity.
However—and this is where the consequences of Atleti’s transfer misdealings and subsequent ban will be felt—there’s little chance of a move away from the club any time soon.
Simeone, aware that his hands will be tied in the market for the next two transfer windows, will surely not be willing to let any of his squad members depart unless a significantly tempting offer is received, as any departees cannot be replaced unless there’s a successful appeal against the ban.
It all makes for a fairly murky future for Partey, who doesn’t currently appear set to play a key role for Atleti this season—it’s early days, admittedly—but stands little chance of moving away in order to find the kind of first-team football that is surely imperative at this stage of his development.
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