Quietly, as is his nature, Ismail Abdul Ganiu proved instrumental with a portfolio of outstanding performances as Enos Adipah’s Wa All Stars won the Ghana Premier League title in 2016.
Not long thereafter, Ganiu secured a transfer to then newly-promoted Karela United, where he continued to operate powerfully yet quietly — the Rolls-Royce Wraith in flesh, if you like — and, in next to no time, the league’s bigger sides took note and begun circling.
Record winners Asante Kotoko won the race to sign Ganiu in late 2018, and he instantly became an integral member of the side with his fighting spirit, energy and ferocity at the heart of the team’s defence.
In many a game, Ganiu has set the tone beautifully for the Porcupine Warriors with splendid displays, pressing relentlessly and tracking back doggedly, his physicality and nous doing a whole lot to unsettle opponents.
Ganiu’s reading of the game and anticipation is razor-sharp, as is his focus; combine those traits with the supreme technical ability he possesses and the 25-year-old perfectly fits the profile of an astute ball-playing centre-back.
Proof of that is evident in how well he supplies line-breaking passes with assured vertical balls over considerable distances, be it fizzing one into feet or inviting some pressure and then going long for a teammate further up the field.
Occasionally, though, he provides the final product himself, moving upfront to deliver goalscoring — and sometimes decisive — moments. Ganiu got four goals in the just-ended league season, for instance, three from set-pieces he took himself and another he connected with.
He’s a leader on the pitch — trusted with the armband in some games — and a model professional, too, the latter trait coming to the fore in recent months. While most players would kick up a fuss at the slightest expression of interest from other top clubs home and abroad, Ganiu has simply let his football do the talking and taken it all in his stride.
One of the reportedly interested parties, freshly-crowned Ghanaian champions Accra Hearts of Oak, have especially caused a stir. Sources close to our outfit intimate that officials of Hearts, Kotoko’s archrivals, have made contact with the representatives of the player in a bid to coax Ganiu into crossing to the other side of this rather intense rivalry.
Such a move could potentially yield a significant bump in pay, aside the similarly tempting prospect of joining an exclusive club of players to have featured for the country’s two most glamorous teams.
Ganiu’s camp has moved swiftly to quash the rumour but, with the imminent expiry of his current contract with Kotoko and no extension agreed yet, Hearts would likely not let up in their pursuit.
Looking to build on gains made this season, with a view to domestic and continental objectives in the next, the Phobians are reasonably keen to beef up their personnel, and landing Ganiu — a Black Stars regular over the last few months, too, remember? — would be quite a coup.
Rule nothing out just yet.
Godfred Budu Yeboah — Ink & Kicks