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Ranking Roma’s Youth, #8: Felix Afena-Gyan

Next up in our Top 10 U-23 countdown is young Felix Afena-Gyan. We all remember the night in Genoa, but this kid should provide Roma fans with plenty more reasons to smile in the future. Young Felix clocks in at #8 in our U-23 countdown.

Genoa CFC v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Getty Images

Despite a meteoric rise to the first-team that included a game-winning brace against Genoa, a call-up to the Ghanaian national team, and a pair of fancy shoes gifted by The Special One himself, Felix Afena-Gyan finds himself in CdT’s U-23 rankings for the very first time! From complete unknown to one of the first subs off the bench in his debut season with the senior side, it’s been quite a year for the youngster.

And while it was an up-and-down season for young Felix following that spectacular performance against Genoa, Roma no doubt have a diamond in the rough on their hands. So, let’s take a little deeper dive and explore the reasons behind the Ghanaian starlet’s spot on our list.

Number Eight: Felix Afena-Gyan

Football Serie A Roma-Bologna Photo by Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Age: 19

Position: Forward

Shades Of: Asamoah Gyan, pre-Liverpool Mohamed Salah

Who is He?

While most Romanisti likely know Felix’s story by this point, it doesn't hurt to refresh our collective memory and hear from the player himself on his journey, so we’ll turn to the club’s profile on the player:

Signed by the club for the Under-18 side in January 2021, by the end of the same year Felix Afena-Gyan had already played - and scored - for the club’s first team.

Prolific for both the Under-18s and the Primavera, the Ghanaian-born forward was fast-tracked into the first team setup by coach Jose Mourinho early in the 2021-22 season.

After a couple of brief cameos, a brace off the bench in a 2-0 away win over Genoa established the flying forward as one to watch for the future.

“I’ve had a huge passion for football since I was small,” Felix has said.

“I played for one of the best academies in my country, thanks to the support of my family. I was always focused on becoming a footballer.

“One of the club’s scouts saw me during a tournament in Ghana and he took me to Rome for a trial. Roma decided to give me a contract almost straight away. It was an opportunity that I never in my life expected to get - I’m grateful to God and to the club for it.”

What Can He Do?

Given that Afena-Gyan made most of his appearances last season in a substitute capacity, we know that he can play in a myriad of spots along the front-line, mostly as a second striker alongside Tammy Abraham or on the left-wing. With an incredible amount of pace at his disposal and adequate dribbling ability, Felix has and can be a nightmare for defenders coming off the bench against tired legs. While his decision-making can be questionable at times, and his build leaves him at risk of getting muscled off the ball fairly easily, Afena-Gyan is still very early on in his development, so you’d expect those two flaws to work themselves out as he matures.

And if you really want a glimpse of Felix’s talents, look no further than the fabled brace against Genoa in just his third appearance with the club:

Merely off those highlights alone, you can get an idea of what Afena-Gyan is about. With the youngster both putting himself in the right place at the right time and with deadly precision when he does get his shot away—it’s no wonder he was fast-tracked into the first team following his stint in the Primavera.

What Can He Become?

Of course, given his rising prominence in the Ghanaian national team set-up, many are quick to compare Felix to his fellow countryman and Black Stars all-time great, Asamoah Gyan. Others compare Felix to Samuel Eto’o, but I chalk that up more to them both being under Mourinho’s tutelage than anything.

For me, when I watch Felix, I see shades of pre-Liverpool Mohamed Salah—before Klopp molded him into the inevitable, Premier League conquering, world-beater that he is today. That is to say, it’s clear that when you see him on the pitch that Felix has a ton of potential, it’s just a matter of developing a bit more physically and technically and putting all the pieces together. And for that to happen, Felix will need minutes, minutes, and more minutes. The rumor mill has been in full swing, linking Felix with either loan moves to other Serie A clubs or as a makeweight in a potential Fratessi deal with Sassuolo. While I’d be reluctant to lose him permanently, I think a loan move is probably the best step for Felix to facilitate his development and unlock all that untapped potential.