Sulley Muntari is among just a handful of Ghanaian payers who have competed at the highest level of club football and won some of its top prizes. Born in August 1984, he has developed from a teenage prodigy into an instantly recognisable world star, competing on the challenging arena that is Italy’s Serie A. Muntari was just 16 when he played for Ghana at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina in 2001 and immediately attracted the attention of international clubs and agents. He followed the route of many previous Ghanaian starlets by joining Udinese and made a Serie A debut in late 2002. His first senior club match against Milan came some six months after his international debut as a substitute in a friendly away in Slovenia.
Muntari quickly became a regular in the Black Stars side, although they were in a slump and missed out on qualification for the 2004 CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals in Tunisia. Muntari was part of the big turn around in 2005 under Ratomir Dujkovic as Ghana came back from a desperate position in their group to usurp South Africa and win a first-ever FIFA World Cup™ place. Muntari scored twice in the game that clinched their berth as the Ghanaians beat the Cape Verde Islands 4-0 away to make sure of progress. It was followed by a strong personal performance at the finals in Germany where he scored against the Czech Republic in Cologne in Ghana’s first FIFA World Cup win, which served to raise his international profile ever further.
After five seasons at Udinese, Muntari left to fulfil a long-time desire to play in the English Premier League. He cost Portsmouth an estimated £7m and signed a five-year deal at a time when the English club was flush with money and the future potential of the game looked limitless. His first season culminated with a winning appearance in the FA Cup final at Wembley in 2008, where fellow African Nwankwo Kanu scored the goal that saw Pompey defeat Cardiff City.
Plans for a long term stay in England, however, did not materialise with Muntari the subject of much interest from Inter Milan and their new coach Jose Mourinho, who eventually offered enough to persuade Portsmouth to allow him back to Serie A. The fee was a reported €16m, making Muntari among the most expensive African players ever.
The year 2008 was also supposed to mark a first piece of silverware for Muntari with the national side, but Ghana went out at the semi-final stage of the Nations Cup they hosted. However, Muntari had some consolation as his goal against Guinea was among the best the tournament had seen in decades. Muntari became a fundamental part of the Inter Milan team that won the Scudetto in his first season back in Italy and continued on with more success this past season.