Thomas Partey has emerged as a revelation this season in the centre of the Atletico Madrid midfield and it is a reward for the dedication and sacrifice he has shown since leaving Ghana with the aim of providing for his family.
He was given his chance to move to Spain when he stood out in a game that he was playing in his native town by an agent.
“There was someone better than me, a forward who scored all the goals, but he did not want to come to Europe and wanted to play for a team in Ghana,” explained Partey.
“So my turn came and when he asked me what I wanted I said to triumph in football so as to help my family. He asked me who was my father and he went to speak to him to ask if he could take me to Spain for a trial, but never said which team.
“I went with the agent who did all my papers but I had nothing to do, I just trained, ate and slept until the day arrived when I had to travel, which I did not know when it would be or what time.
“I got into a car, they took me to the capital, they gave me my passport and said: ‘today you travel.’ My dad wasn’t at home, nobody from my family knew anything, nor that I was going that day because if they were told then it would cause a lot of problems.
“I travelled to Spain and it was six or seven months before anyone realised that I wasn’t in Ghana.
Partey went on to say that his parents accepted his decision when they found out.
“My father always was okay with my decisions because as he did not have any help it cost him a lot and he said nothing,” he said.
“The following month they sent me money for me to buy boots. My mum was worried because she was thinking about what could happen to me. Sometimes I listened to her and others no. I always do what I think is best and for that reason, I decided to travel without saying anything to anyone.
The player found out later that his father had actually sold some of what he owned to enable Partey to succeed.
“My agent told me this but my father never wanted to say anything because he knew that I would not accept it,” continued Partey.
“He made a big effort and he sold things in order to get my papers and to buy me boots. He had helped me since I was small as without boots you could not play. He also helped a lot the team from my neighbourhood and I remember we brought food.”
His struggle has helped him to deal with the highs and lows on the pitch including Atletico’s early elimination from the Champions League this season.
“When you are on the pitch you only think about the team and people watching,” he said.
“I worried a lot because it was not good to be knocked out and I always want to compete but when you cannot then there is no point still talking about it.
“We have other things to look forward to this year and next season I am sure we will be in the fight for the Champions League.”