Mohammed Kudus announced himself on the global stage with his brace at the World Cup on Monday to show why he is one of the most coveted young players in football.
The attacking midfielder scored twice, including the winner, in Ghana’s dramatic 3-2 win over South Korea in Qatar.
The 22-year-old, who plays his club football for Ajax, almost single-handedly saved Ghana’s World Cup campaign when he stroked in left-footed in the 68th minute.
He had earlier scored with a header, before Son Heung-min’s South Korea mounted a comeback, only for Kudus to win it for Ghana and their colourful, chanting fans.
He has now scored seven times in 20 appearances for his country, having made his debut three years ago.
It remains to be seen how much further Ghana go at the tournament — they have three points from two games and face a grudge match against Uruguay in their final Group H match on Friday.
But no matter what they do, Kudus looks set to go far once the World Cup wraps up.
Ghana captain Andre Ayew shrugged and smiled when asked afterwards how impressed he had been by his young team-mate.
“Not impressed at all,” the 32-year-old forward said, a smile forming on his face again. “It’s normal — it’s Kudus.
“He has a bright future in front of him. We know this, I know this, Ghana knows it now, the world is going to know it.
“You’ll see, more is coming from my boy.”
Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew — Andre’s brother — came into the Ghana side and provided the cross for Kudus’s first-half header
He said Kudus was “shining”.
“And hopefully he can keep on shining because he has a really bright future,” said the 31-year-old.
Kudus made a piece of history, his double the first by a Ghanian in a World Cup match.
“He’s a good character,” said coach Otto Addo.
“He’s a very good guy who one against one is fast. He has very good game intelligence.
“He has to work more defensively, this is for sure, but he is on the right track to be a great, great player.”
– Rapid ascent –
Some of Europe’s biggest clubs, among them Milan, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool, have been linked with Kudus. A summer loan move to Everton fell through.
There was mayhem all around him after Ghana hung on to beat South Korea, but man-of-the-match Kudus seemed to be the coolest man among the 44,000 at Education City Stadium.
Kudus was still playing for Ajax’s youth team as recently as last year, before making an impact on the elite stage with four goals in this season’s Champions League.
He has scored 15 goals in 63 appearances for the Amsterdam club and also clocked six assists.
Kudus certainly does not lack self-belief.
Speaking to The Guardian in Doha last week, he said: “He’s not better than me. He’s just a higher-profile player, that’s all.”
The man Kudus was referencing was Neymar.
Kudus was less forthright after his two goals against the South Koreans and instead now has his sights set on Uruguay and a possible place in the last 16.
“The whole team played their part and I think the energy is very good in camp now, and it is a good boost for our next game,” he said.