Sulley Ali Muntari plays as a midfielder for the Black Stars. Muntari’s abilities first came to light in youth tournaments, while he was playing for Liberty Professionals in Accra. As a raw 16-year-old, he was already an integral member of Ghana’s U-20 team as they finished runners-up at the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship in Argentina, losing out to the hosts in the final. Starting every match in defense, the youngster crossed paths with – and eliminated – future stars of the calibre of Adriano, Kaka, Julio Baptista and Djibril Cisse.
Those performances seduced scouts from Europe looking for the next big thing, and, despite impressing during a trial with Manchester United, he was soon packing his bags for Udinese. His first season was spent in the reserves, but his chance to shine was on its way and finally came at the San Siro on 6 November 2002, when he made his debut appearance against AC Milan of all teams. The Rossoneri proved too strong on the day, yet Udinese’s young newcomer left an instant impression. “Muntari was immense against Milan,” enthused monthly magazine Football Italia, “showing himself to possess the touch of Kaka and the combativeness of Edgar Davids, he is definitely a player to keep a close eye on.”