It had been in the works for a while, not exactly the town’s best-kept secret, but the rumoured development is finally official: Ghana have Inaki Williams, their long-term target, locked in.
The 28-year-old wasn’t the only freshly-minted Black Star confirmed by Ghana Football Association (GFA) president Kurt Okraku in his now-viral tweet on Tuesday evening, but Williams certainly headlined that list of new ‘recruits’; a video that dramatically announced his decision was thrown in, for good measure, to spice it up.
The reception to that news has been, at worst, mixed.
Williams had, in a rather candid interview published by The Guardian in October last year, made it quite plain that he was never going to play for Ghana, even claiming he’d be fooling Ghanaians should he ever accept an invitation to turn out for the Black Stars.
Many, then, are reasonably unsure of just what to make of his sudden change of heart. But there are still numerous Ghana fans who won’t mind, only too excited by the prospect of having such a high-profile player join the team and reinforce an offensive unit that could do with the boost that the Basque-born undoubtedly provides.
Don’t be surprised, though, that these supporters, even after buying into the early hype, could easily become Williams’ greatest critics after his career as a Ghana international actually takes off. He has already been hailed by some in the media space as the antidote to the national team’s biggest challenge at present, goalscoring – only that he isn’t.
Williams has a lot in his locker, with pace and power and dribbling ability the outstanding attributes.
He is very capable of beating a man or simply shrugging him off, and also adept at creating for teammates and generally making an almighty nuisance of himself in and around the box with his presence and movement. Then there is the one thing he is most-celebrated for, that near-constant availability which has seen him miss not a single La Liga game for his club, Athletic Bilbao, in the last six years.
What you don’t get from him, however, is a guarantee of prolific finishing.
A little over 70 goals in some 340 games – the majority of which have come in his primary role as a centre-forward – works out to an average of just about nine strikes in each of his eight seasons as a senior professional, and those numbers just don’t fit into the elite bracket.
Only thrice, in fact, has he hit double figures, last doing so in the 2018/19 campaign, so he would likely not be the man to get the goals flowing more freely for Ghana (that could be Edward Nketiah, of Arsenal, whose own potential nationality switch is being worked on).
And it’s absolutely necessary that fact sinks in now, lest the fans soon begin to feel about Williams how they now feel about the man many are keen for him to displace in the Ghana starting XI, Jordan Ayew.
Often played [unfairly] at centre-forward on national duty, Jordan hasn’t delivered goals as frequently as expected. It hasn’t mattered that he has delivered on most other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that his coaches over the years have required of him; the popular opinion is that the Crystal Palace man has underwhelmed, even flopped, and that verdict was communicated almost unanimously and all too cruelly to Jordan when Ghana hosted Nigeria in the Qatar 2022 playoffs last March.
It’s a cautionary tale that must be learned from.
Let there be no assumptions or illusions about what we’re getting from Williams. Read exactly what it says on the tin – great overall attacking output but not many goals – and expect no more. That’s the only way Williams, and the gifts he brings to the table, could be fully appreciated.