At the beginning of this season, hardly anyone in England will know the name Richmond Boakye-Yiadom. However, it could be a completely different story by the time his Crvena Zvezda- otherwise known as Red Star Belgrade- side are out of the Europa League. The Ghanaian striker is the top scorer from Europa League qualifying with seven goals and three assists and has the chance to add to that tally when he faces off against BATE Borisov, FC Koln, and Arsenal in the group stages.
If he begins the groups like he started his qualifying campaign then he will definitely make people stand up and take notice. In the first game, a home tie again Maltese side Floriana he scored two goals in a 3-0 win, adding another two to that in the return leg that ended 3-3. He then bagged another goal when he scored in the first leg of Red Star’s first leg against FC Irtysh Pavlodar, which ended 1-1, although he didn’t score in the 2-0 win at home in the second leg. Following on from that Boakye opened the scoring in his team’s 2-0 home win in the first leg against Sparta Prague, before securing the only goal of the return leg. These goals were enough to give him top spot of the goal scoring charts, despite him being unable to get on the score sheet in either leg during the Play Off Round against Krasnodar.
His goals were a mixture of well-taken penalties, typical poacher tap ins, headers and a brilliantly hit volley. There were plenty of skills shown in the goals, ranging the clinical instinct he used to stab home a bouncing ball in the box against Floriana, to effective movement off of a free kick routine which led to his goal in the second leg against Sparta Prague. Boakye is clearly confident when it comes to penalties, as he stuck both of the ones he took right into the top corner. The variety of his goals does show that he will be a threat in a variety of situations, rather than just relying on one attribute when facing off against teams in group stages, while the fact that his side scored four in two legs against Krasnodar highlights the fact that he’s not Crvena Zvezda’s only threat.
Although Boakye’s success in the Europa League was instant this season, there has been a lot of work to get to this point and he has had to have a lot of resolve throughout his career. When he was still a youth player he moved from his homeland of Ghana to Italy to further his footballing career, after spending time with Bechem United and DC United (Ghana). His first club in Italy was Genoa, whom he scored for on his debut when he came off the bench due to an injury against Livorno, before scoring the opening goal of the game. However, he never had a run of games there and was also sold in a co-ownership deal with Juventus, who he never actually played a league game for.
His time in Italy did show what he was capable of though as he impressed during two loan spells with Sassuolo in their Serie B days. During the two spells combined, he bagged a total of 23 goals in 68 appearances in the league and cup, helping I Neroverdi win the league and secure their place at Italy’s top table for the first time in the club’s history.
However, outside of that successful time, Boakye has struggled to settle at a club before moving to Serbia. Since the beginning of the 2013-14 season he has played in three different countries prior to his latest move, as he represented Elche on loan, Atalanta, Roda JC on loan and then Latina who he was at for two years, matching his longest period with one team. He is now in his second season with Red Star Belgrade and it seems as though he may finally be settling, as he has an impressive total of 23 goals in 28 appearances for Crveno-beli.
The striker has also had a rollercoaster when it comes to representing his country. He has played 11 matches for Ghana since making his debut in 2012 scoring four goals, which all came in friendlies. Despite this, he hasn’t represented his nation since 2015, although that could change in the near future, as his impressive Europa League performances have earned him a late call up to Ghana’s latest squad, which will also include the likes of Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan.
With the current accolade of Europa League top scorer, a good start to the domestic season and a recall to the national team this has been a brilliant start to the season for Richmond Boakye. He and his team mates will be looking to continue the form that has got them to this point and progress to the next stage of the Europa League, as Red Star Belgrade aim to get near to their former glory. They may have Arsenal to beat, but their Ghanaian striker isn’t afraid of that prospect. When he discovered he’d be playing at the Emirates he tweeted “what a fantastic opportunity” and it’s clear to see how good he’s been at taking those this campaign.