Thursday, April 15, 2021

From Talk of the Town to Whisper of Village – How Gambia’s Most Expensive Footballer Sanneh Became a Non-starter in Turkey

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By Sulayman Bah

It’s torrid moment for one of Gambia’s most expensive expatriate Bubacarr Sanneh in faraway Turkey.

The 24-year-old was one of the brightest assets in the European game, coming in the spotlight following his eight-million euros transfer to Anderlecht of Belgium, August 2018.

The serial Belgian heavyweights poached him from Danish Super Lig champions Midtjylland, forking out a colossal eight million to ward off overtures from other suitors – convinced they’ve nabbed a Branislav Ivanovich-type of a player centre-back.

A top player indeed he was at Midtjylland where he seized the chance to establish himself a regular after injury to one of his then team’s Mr. Reliables at the back-four.

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He didn’t look back making most of the chance to endear himself to club fans, going on to become one of the Scandinavian country’s league highest scoring defenders.

Anderlecht had never coughed up such astronomical figures for a new acquisition but what they heard about the Bundung-born via their chief scouts, to them,  meant they’ve found a man to end their defensives woes and for the long term.

Consequently, the former AC Horsens’ defender came under pressure to deliver at a new club whose history is bigger than all the team’s he’d featured for put together in his career and whose fans, going by reports in the press then, where expecting a Sergio Ramos-like player.

Finding himself at a new club, in a new ground including new fans, not to mention his new hefty price tag, the weight of expectation to shine at this stage, like all new players, was anticipated but never was it imagined –even to Bubacarr’s circles – that he would take this much time to show his true worth.

It must be said Sanneh has history of adapting slowly at any team he has been to –Horsens and Midtjylland are glaring examples – but the moment he grasps his club’s in-house style, he accelerates to rapid progression.

New arrivals are meant to stay put at a club until they establish firm roots and force their way into the coach’s thinking.

Bubacarr’s transition was far from a smooth ride. He shuttled, albeit with alacrity, in an out of Anderlecht under then a new coach reporting for national team duties with Gambia’s Scorpions, a commitment requiring he spend days away from Brussels.

These deductions factored in the player’s swift decline of form and eventually from the coach’s pecking order, never mind that he started brightly with a goal in the first few matches for Anderlecht.

What prompted the Anderlecht coach into persuading the side’s board to dole out the aforesaid figure to ensure the deal is done over with, was owing to the Gambian’s fluidity in a three-man’s defence formation.

Sanneh’s switch to the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium laced with time of the club’s troubles as Anderlecht veered into free-fall mode. And, when he failed to morph into fans’ craving for the answer to their kamikaze defence worries, he became the scapegoat in an already mixed up scenario.

Chunk of the blame was also heaped on the Anderlecht coach who pestered the board into sanctioning Timber’s coming.  The Board’s chairman Mrac Coucke as much as he tried shifting weight of the blame took in some of the derides.

In the interim, the Scorpion started to be reduced to watching from the fringes with minimal involvement, if any.

In their assessment of how new signings fared in the First Division A, the Gambian earned a cold-hearted review from the Belgian media who labelled him the ‘worst signing’ at the time.

In comes Vincent Komany –another chapter of blues for Bubacarr

The Anderlecht coach was eventually sacked, creating room for the appointment of Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany and his Welsh partner coach.

The 24-year-old, it was hoped, was to learn under the tutelage of Vincent, one of the best in art of defence until his decision to leave the Premier League champions. This inclination died in its tracks after Kompany also saw Sanneh peripheral in his plans for the new term.

Chairman Marc had to give up idea of defending his expensive Gambian signing and having to answer question of the player’s future amid rumours he could be either sent out on a loan agreement or sold away.

The latter meant Marc’s admission his purchase of Sanneh was wasted investment. On the other hand, condoning the coach’s continuous overlook of the Gambian for selection  represent a huge drop in value in the event of any sale of the player at that given period.

Consequently, loan, not in the Belgian league but elsewhere in the Turkish Super Lig, could help retain market-wise Timber price tag.

Following thorough review of the existing scenarios and their knock-on effects, Marc decided, of course in consultation with Sanneh, that a change of scenery was inevitable.

Plots began to be made as the star’s agency Elite Consulting began pondering options and offers at its disposal.

And Turkish outfit Gotzepe’s proposal won them over. What followed was house-hunting in the Izmir neighbourhood in an undertaking towards a fresh start to life for the West African international.

The project at Gotzepe, we were made to understand, was tailor-made for Bubacarr’s quick integration and career development.

However, it looks that initiative now appears in jeopardy with the centre-back not even getting featured on the substitutes’ bench in another plummet down the pecking order.

It’s unbelievable how Bubacarr Sanneh went from a sought-after to whispers of the village in just twelve months.

Over here in The Gambia, loved ones and well-wishers are hoping he does a rebirth and go on to prove doubters wrong.

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