Inaki Williams Doesn’t Feel Ghanaian Enough, But Does Spain ‘Feel’ Him Enough?
And so it’s finally settled: Inaki Williams is there for the taking — only beyond Ghana’s reach.
“I admire and love Ghana, the culture, food, tradition,” he started, nicely, in a recent interview with The Guardian. “My parents are from Accra and I really enjoy going.
“But I wasn’t born or raised there, my culture’s here, and there are players for whom it would mean more. I don’t think it would be right to take the place of someone who really deserves to go and who feels Ghana 100%.”
In other — never mind simpler — words, Williams just doesn’t feel Ghanaian enough to play for the Black Stars.
If that’s how he genuinely feels — and, really, who’s to say it isn’t? — that’s alright. Ghana will move on in its never-ending search for ‘more Ghanaian’ players, but that won’t stop folks from keeping an eye on Williams, the one another that got away, checking whether or not he’s truly better off without the Black Stars.
Right now, the Athletic Bilbao star isn’t.
Actually, he hasn’t been for a while, not since debuting for Spain’s senior national side in 2016 — a half-hour cameo against Bosnia and Herzegovina as Vicente del Bosque was preparing his team to retain its crown as champions of Europe.
Williams was placed on a list of stand-by players, and that’s just where he was left: standing by, as Spain crashed out in the Round of 16.
Coupled with the disastrous defence of their world title two years prior — and, at the next Mundial, a chastening early exit to hosts Russia — it became painfully obvious that the Spain team needed to be freshened with younger talent.
Yet Williams, one of the most eligible candidates for such a rebuild, has been entirely left out of that process by successive managers; five years after his first appearance, Williams is still waiting for a second.
Time and again, he has been overlooked, and his chances of ever getting recalled — much less enjoying a full-fledged international career — have only diminished. Under current trainer Luis Enrique, those prospects look increasingly bleak.
The former Barcelona boss, in his second coming, has shown himself to be a big fan of youth, while trying to improve the team’s fortunes. Ignoring decimal places, the average age of players who have featured across Spain’s last 11 games stands at 25 years; Williams is a ripe ‘old’ 27.
That leaves him just outside Enrique’s general range — but also right in his prime, and in excellent shape.
Just before the latest international break — during which Spain narrowly finished as UEFA Nations League losing finalists — Williams carved a fat slice of La Liga history, all of 203 games in the making, for himself: an all-time-record run of consecutive appearances.
Enrique apparently saw more value in taking along on the trip to Italy, for instance, a 17-year-old who has made a grand total of seven senior appearances at club level in his career than a player already regarded as something of a legend in his own little corner of the world.
True, Williams and Barcelona wunderkind Gavi are very different players — for starters, they don’t even play in the same positions — but it’s hard to see just how a flourishing star should compare unfavourably with one that’s only just budding (and that’s not to say Enrique inviting Gavi, or any of the other exciting youngsters, was unjustified).
It’s obviously not because he isn’t good enough; Williams is as reliable as footballers come (oh, did I mention he’s incredibly speedy, too?), if nothing else, and that should make him rather desirable — just not to La Roja‘s handlers, it seems.
Whatever the reason — and it’s anyone’s guess, really — Spain, for now, is clearly not ‘feeling’ Williams any more than he “feels Ghana”.