When Stephen Amankona signed for Asante Kotoko in October 2021, it felt like the natural next step for a player who had consistently proven his quality and mettle at a Ghana Premier League also-ran, Berekum Chelsea, and seemed ready to don the colours of a heavyweight.

Kotoko had reached far and wide — even down into the lower divisions — to secure the right recruits for the rebuilding project they'd commenced that pre-season under new head coach Dr. Prosper Narteh Ogum. Amankona, though, was supposed to be the pick of the bunch; he cost a small fortune, for one.

For another, as mentioned at the outset, he arrived with quite a reputation -- and not just because of his ability on the ball. Amankona was, even at a relatively young age, a leader, skippering and setting the pace for teammates that included players more experienced and accomplished.

In the previous season, the attacking midfielder had scored 10 times in the league, also netting the decisive penalty-kick to eliminate Kotoko from the FA Cup at the quarter-finals stage; now, he was expected to do it for, not against, the Porcupine Warriors.

Those hopes were, alas, far from fulfilled.

Amankona did win the league with Kotoko that debut campaign, and was feted heavily afterwards in his hometown, Jinijini (near Berekum), but only sparsely did he feature during the club's title-winning run.

And he remained a peripheral figure throughout the following year, even after Ogum left and was replaced by Burkinabe Seydou Zerbo. In a season that saw Kotoko's standards drop sharply, there was no hiding place for Amankona, nothing at all to celebrate.

He left Kotoko mid-term, in January 2023, 15 miserable months after he joined, with just one league goal and assist to his name. The decision to split was mutually desired, with Amankona desperate for playing time and Kotoko keen to cut their losses by getting a high-earning yet low-performing player off the books.

In attempting to explain his brief and unsuccessful spell, Amankona compared his lot to that of another star forward who also underwhelmed after swapping Chelsea (London's, not Berekum’s) for a much bigger club.

“There are a lot of things that happen in football,” he told Kumasi-based Oyerepa FM, “[Eden] Hazard, for instance, moved to Madrid and couldn’t meet expectations.”

But while Hazard felt his best choice following that forgettable experience was to head straight for retirement, Amankona, aged 22 at the time, reckoned his prospects would be better served by retracing his steps to Chelsea, who were only too glad to have such a talismanic figure back for a mere fraction of what they sold him for.

Considering how that reunion has turned out, you wouldn't think player and club ever parted ways — or that they even should have at all.

Back in familiar environs, Amankona has thrived, after spending the latter half of the previous season re-adjusting to life at Chelsea. The season which followed (and ended over the weekend) saw Amankona well and truly kick on, netting 19 league goals: almost double the tally from his last season at the club before moving to Kotoko, and more than enough to win him the league's top-scorer’s prize.

Amankona may have finished his season just as he started it — with a brace — but it was in the latter half of the campaign, specifically after the appointment of Samuel Boadu as head coach, that he really began reeling in the goals: 14 in that period alone, two of which came when Kotoko visited Chelsea in May and lost 2-1.

On departing Kumasi, Amankona expressed the hope that he'd recover and return “to the level that attracted the interest from Kotoko”, likely with a view to securing another big move.

While his form this season would certainly draw the attention of bigger sides, those potential suitors may well be wary of a player who seems made for just one club and/or who appears to struggle with the burden of performing at the highest level.

In any case, it may be in Amankona's own interest not to leave his comfort zone anytime soon — especially if Boadu, who only signed a short-term deal that expired at the season's end, stays, given how much he was motivated to thrive under him.

Whatever happens in that respect, it just feels like there is no better place for Amankona to be, now and in the foreseeable future.

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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.