The transfer saga of last season’s two top forwards has emerged after Asante Kotoko Chief Executive Officer Nana Yaw Amponsah revealing FC Zurich’s miss out on his forward Franck Thierry Etouga Mbella and completed move for Hearts of Oak striker Afriyie Barnieh in the January transfer window.
While FC Zurich move for Mbella would have materialized in January this year, the Cameroonian International was willing to leave Kotoko at the end of last season.
Mbella rose to prominence in the Ghana Premier League last term after scoring 21 goals to become Kotoko’s top scorer and the second highest in the league to former Ash Gold star Yaw Annor. Mbella needed only a goal to to equal the 22 goals scored by Ishmael Addo as the highest ever goal tally scored in the Ghana Premier League.
The Cameroonian International caught the eyes of European clubs even in the course of the season with the likes of St. Etienne, Galatasaray, Metz and Egyptian side Al Ahly linked with the Asante Kotoko forward.
Kotoko blocked all interests to keep the striker till the end of the season only for the Cameroonian to lose his leading top scorer position to former Ash Gold forward Yaw Annor in the last day of the Ghana Premier League.
At the end of last season interest in Mbella’s signature increased with the likes of ES Tunis, Zamalek and FC Zurich joining the plethora of clubs already in the race to land the Kotoko striker. With Asante Kotoko lifting the Ghana Premier League, they qualified for the CAF Champions League which means to keep their stars with no exception on Franck Thierry Etouga Mbella.
Asante Kotoko faced a huge gap between maintaining Mbella and the continual interest in signature of the Cameroonian International where the champions could not find the perfect bridge leading to the lost of Mbella to Egyptian side Al Masry last term.
At the end of last season, FC Zurich were understood among clubs to have submitted a bid to Kotoko with the Ghanaian side said to have opened negotiations with the Swiss outfit for a January move.
Along the line, Kotoko wanted to use the forward in the African campaign but it’s understood Mbella wanted to leave Baba Yara for a new challenge leading to uncertainties and disruption around Mbella move to FC Zurich.
FC Zurich backed off collapsing their transfer ambitions on Mbella. Egyptian side Al Masry joined later and completed a move for the Asante Kotoko attacker with Mbella not playing any part in Kotoko’s CAF Champions League campaign either that ended in early exit after Burkina Faso side RC Kadiogo beating the Ghana Premier League champions on penalties in return leg at Baba Yara Sports Stadium.
FC Zurich came in for Hearts of Oak striker Afriyie Barnieh who had gained huge football experience following his involvement with Ghana national teams over years including the Black Galaxies and Black Stars.
Barnieh was called up for Black Stars’ friendlies against Brazil, Nicaragua and Switzerland ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Barnieh played in Ghana’s 1-0 win over Nicaragua and started against Switzerland.
After World Cup, Barnieh played for Black Galaxies (Ghana’s home based team) in 2023 CHAN in Algeria and reached the quarterfinals following 2-0 loss to Niger in the last Eight.
Since the departure of Mbella in about 8 months time, Kotoko CEO Nana Yaw Amponsah has opened up on why his striker’s move to FC Zurich failed making way for Hearts of Oak star Afriye Barnieh to join the Swiss giants.
The CEO has disclosed that he begged Mbella to stay with Kotoko and play in the CAF Champions League where a move (to FC Zurich) awaits him in January. The 21-year old rejected the CEO appeal and decided to leave at the end of last season with striker’s agent said to have influenced this transfer saga. He is understood to have pushed for Mbella’s move to Al Masry instead of waiting for FC Zurich in January.
Mbella has struggled netting only once since joining the Egyptian Premier League side. Barnieh has also struggle to find his rythm at FC Zurich making only two appearances in the Swiss Super League so far.