Former Ghana international Odartey Lamptey has admitted that fitting into the shoes of Brazilian legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento as known Pele were too big.
Lamptey burst onto the scene as a 14-year-old at the 1989 FIFA U-16 World Championship in Scotland. After a brilliant performance in the opening game against the hosts at Hampden Park, the attending Pele hailed the tricky and explosive midfielder as his natural successor.
Two years later at the Under-17 version of the tournament in Italy, Lamptey became a global phenomenon. He outshone the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Juan Sebastian Veron to lead Ghana to the title, winning the Golden Ball and scoring four goals in the process – including a stunning strike over favourites Brazil in the quarter-finals.
The former Aston Villa player was tipped for greatness by the Brazilian legend but failed to follow in the footsteps of Pele.
“In our first match in the Scotland tournament, we played against the host nation in the presence of Brazilian Pele who picked me as the best player and then declared afterwards that I was a bright star likely to step into his big shoes,” Lamptey recalls three decades on in an interview with the Daily Graphic.
“Pele gave me the hype in 1989 when I was only 16 and in the teams I joined perhaps they were expecting so much from me just as Pele did. I never saw him play, but later I watched his videos and realised that he had so much quality so there was no way I could have fit into his big shoes. Perhaps in 1989, he saw something very unique about me so it was a privilege for him to say such good things about me.”
During his career, Odartey has stints with or Aston Villa, PSV Eindhoven and Coventry City.
He also played for Anderlecht, Venezia, Unión Santa Fe, Ankaragücü, União Leiria, Greuther Fürth, Shandong Luneng, Al-Nassr, Asante Kotoko and Jomo Cosmos.