Could he? Could he not?

Rumours had swirled in the build-up to Otto Addo naming his first squad for competitive assignments — June's crucial 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Mali and the Central African Republic — on his return as Ghana head coach that the former Borussia Dortmund man was going to omit Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew, the Black Stars’ skipper, from the 26-man roster.

Anyone who appreciates the stature which Ayew has attained in the national team, the heft of his personality and star power, would know just how big a call it is for any manager to even contemplate not inviting him when he is fit and able.

Yes, you could start Ayew from the bench or even leave him there altogether for the duration of a game, as immediate past head coach Chris Hughton did towards the end of his tenure — but to leave Ayew out of the squad entirely, even if he is aged 34 and admittedly well past his prime?

Unimaginable. Unheard of. Bold.

Addo pulled it off, anyway — just not with a great deal of ease, he confesses.

“I had a long talk with Dede Ayew. I visited him and gave him reasons why he is not in my squad at the moment,” Addo explained at the presser.

“It is very difficult to leave him out but, in the end, it’s me as the coach who has to take decisions and those decisions must be the best for the team. Personally, I like Dede as a per­son and also as a player, but this is a decision we took and not one he totally agreed with.”

Addo certainly acted within his remit as manager. He is the boss and ultimately responsible for the composition and performance of the team. But Ayew also had a valid counterargument, if — as Addo himself confirmed — he put up one.

TOPSHOT - Ghana's coach Otto Addo (L) speaks with Ghana's midfielder #10 Andre Ayew during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group H football match between South Korea and Ghana at the Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha, on November 28, 2022. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP) (Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)

He may be no spring chicken and cannot even claim to be one of Ghana’s most in-form players now, but Ayew has been one of the country’s more decent performers in Europe. After spending the latter half of last season in a peripheral role at Nottingham Forest, and a worryingly lengthy period searching for a new employer, he joined French Ligue 1 club Le Havre. There, he contributed significantly — scoring five goals in 17 games, including one picturesque scissor-kick — to help the Norman outfit secure their top-flight status.

Meritocracy, then, doesn't quite properly explain Ayew's exclusion; if it did, there would be no reason a player like Kamaldeen Sulemana, who hasn't started any of the 12 games — missing eight, including all of the last three, and having no goal involvements since October 2023 — leading up to Southampton’s Premier League return last week, should be in there… and yet he is.

A nationwide clamour there has indeed been for the omission of a player many feel has remained a part of the Black Stars much longer than he should (much longer, in fact, than anyone ever has, on a record 120 appearances), true, but there isn't much justification in doing so now, is there?

If it wasn't right to invite Ayew when he was barely active or completely idle at club level, it's just as wrong to leave him out now he's thriving (relatively, that is, for a player his age).

Addo's decision, with all the above considered, feels like playing to the gallery, a bid to win over those Ghanaian fans who don't want Ayew anywhere near the team — but who don't think too highly of Addo himself, either.

On the other hand, if it is, as some suspect, all about setting aside the team's eldest statesman, regardless of whether or not he could still actually do a job even after nearly a decade wearing that white shirt, that's a glaring and classic example of ageism.

Either way, whatever his reasons may be, Addo -- who'd likely have been preparing for Saturday's UEFA Champions League final as Dortmund manager Edin Terzic's assistant, but for the Ghana job, having served in that very capacity during the German-Croatian's half-term tenure back in the 2020/21 campaign -- has clearly got the timing wrong.

The day to drop Ayew may have come and gone, but it will inevitably return in the not-too-distant future.

Now, though, just isn't it.

DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.

DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.