By Sulayman Bah
Thrill was the public reaction over news of Atalanta’s qualification for next season’s Uefa Champions League.
Of this elation though lies a smidgen of worry amid skepticism over whether Barrow will stay at the club to play in this prestigious tournament.
A budding talent with a huge future, Musa Barrow is the hope of a nation of 1.9 million and his inclusion in gaffer Gasperini’s next season Champions League squad will sure be a source of pride for Gambia who have a ubiquitous golden generation of players scattered in virtually every part of Europe. Each year, there seems to be a new star carrying the West African country’s flag.
Six years ago, it was a 21-year-old Momodou Ceesay who not only turned heads but brought prominence and Champions League football to a little-known Slovakian club, MSK Zilina. The presence of Chelsea and Marseille in the pool meant no marching beyond the group stages.
Three years on, Ceesay slid to football oblivion coinciding with the rise of Modou Barrow from the doldrums of Swedish football. He, unlike Momodou, did not play in the European stage but signed for Swansea City – a big feat then for any Gambian to play in the English Premier League. This success was short-lived as the winger, considered a work in progress, was loaned out to Blackburn Rovers and now makes his craft with Reading in the Championship.
This blip was preceded by some moments of dark times for Gambian football before Musa Barrow came to the scene.
His trip to stage he now finds himself began with a spell in Gambia’s U-20s where Atalanta scouts spotted him, culminating into a move from Hawks to the Serie A club’s reserves for a reported fee of 200,000 euros.
There, he morphed in the finished article, going from the whisper of the village to talk of the town with the youth league’s golden shoe his biggest conquest.
AS Roma, Inter Milan began circumnavigating around the youngster amid bombardment of interest from sides also abroad, notably Tottenham Hotspur.
Atalanta fended off the tempting offers, promising Barrow playing time. Gasperini oversaw a steady first season rise in the A-team for the prodigy and the Gambian delivered with three goals at Italy’s highest echelon.
Back home, he became the talking point coinciding with the Scorpions search for an established goal-scorer. Barrow was the answer to that or at least showed flashes of inimitable brilliance with majority convinced he wasn’t far off.
Soon he was picked for Europe’s U-21 Most Valuable Player prize, a piece he was in contention with eventual trophy winner Kylian Mbappe. Gossip columns made most of his progress as defenders schemed how to curtail his blistering pace.
The ensuing league season brought along with it some salty munch. The clout, he was once courted, gone. The tables turned.
The form of teammate and Colombia’s Zapata meant minimal minutes for Barrow. Already, his employers are pondering shipping him out on loan to make way for a new recruit as part of drive to bolster every aspect of the squad in earnest anticipation of next season’s Champions League.
Any move engineering such an undertaking will be a blow well felt for Gambia who’d hoped seeing their own in Europe’s biggest club football.
Loans are tailored project designated to enhance growth. For Musa, it will be a disenchantment and a severe doubting of his talent thriving at the very pinnacle of the game.