Sulleyman Ali "Sulley" Muntari is a Ghanaian footballer who currently plays for Serie A club Internazionale. He is a central midfielder, but can also play as left winger. He also plays for the Ghana national team, but his relationship with the Ghana Football Association has been rocky at times.
Muntari's abilities first came to light in youth tournaments, while he was playing for Liberty Professionals in Accra. He became a regular member of Ghana's U-20 team at the age of 16 as they finished runners-up at the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship in Argentina, losing out to the hosts in the final. Despite impressing during a trial with Manchester United after the Tournament he was soon packing his bags for Udinese.
He joined Udinese in 2001 where his first season was spent in the reserves, but he made his debut on 6 November 2002, against Milan. The Rossoneri proved too strong on the day, yet Udinese's young newcomer left an instant impression. "Muntari was immense against Milan," enthused monthly magazine Football Italia, "showing himself to possess the touch of Kaká and the combativeness of Edgar Davids, he is definitely a player to keep a close eye on."
In his second full season, he made 23 appearances, and increased his standing to 33 appearances the following season, although indiscipline saw him sent off three times in 16 matches in the 2006–07 season. He left Udinese for Portsmouth after 5 seasons.
Muntari had already indicated a desire to move to the Premier League, when in early 2007 transfer bids were received from Portsmouth, Milan, Juventus, Roma and Internazionale.
He eventually opted for Portsmouth and transferred on 30 May 2007, for a new club record fee, believed to be around £7.1m, signing a five-year contract. He was a regular member of the first XI throughout the 2007–08 season playing 29 League matches and scoring 4 goals. He had his debut on 11 August 2007 against Derby County in an away game. His performance of note was away at Aston Villa where he scored two spectacular long-range goals. He also played 4 FA Cup matches scoring the winner from the spot in a 1–0 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford in the sixth round of the FA Cup. He was in the first XI that won the 2008 FA Cup Final at the Wembley Stadium. He left Fratton Park after 1 season to join Internazionale.
On 2 March 2007, it was reported in the Italian press that Inter were preparing a summer offer for the midfielder. Injuries to Esteban Cambiasso and Patrick Vieira underlined just how short of ball-winning midfielders the "Nerazzurri" were and they would remedy that problem in June 2007. Transfer consultants Marco Branca and Gabriele Oriali were looking around Europe for possible options and Muntari seemed to be their man at the insistence of then Coach Roberto Mancini, although Muntari ultimately went to Portsmouth in the summer of 2007. But on 21 July, 2008 Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that with the probable failure of new Inter Coach José Mourinho to land his former Chelsea protégé Frank Lampard, Muntari was now his first choice central midfielder. The reports gathered pace in the Italian Press in the next few days that Muntari had already agreed a 4-year contract with Inter. But Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp told Sky Sports News "I don't want to sell him. He is one of my best players and is a terrific young talent" when quizzed about Inter's supposed interest in Muntari.
On 24 July 2008, BBC and Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Muntari will complete a €16 million plus bonuses move to Inter. He finally completed his move to Inter on 28 July 2008 and will wear the number 20 jersey, previously worn by Álvaro Recoba for many years.
On November 22, 2008, Muntari scored the winner following a wrong shot on goal from Zlatan Ibrahimović in the Derby d'Italia against rivals Juventus. Two weeks later, Muntari scored a backheel goal against Napoli at the San Siro after a great cross from Maicon, a match that ended 2–1 for Inter. In the very last Serie A match of the season on 31 May 2009 versus Atalanta, he opened the scoring for Inter after blasting in a Luís Figo cross from outside the penalty box. Later, his shot on goal was parried by the goalkeeper but Esteban Cambiasso scored from the rebound to make the score 3–3. Inter eventually won 4–3 and Muntari won his first Scudetto after his first season with the club.
In August 2009, his manager Jose Mourinho again found himself causing controversy after commenting that Muntari, a practising muslim, was lacking fitness and energy due to fasting during the month of Ramadan. He was reported to have said 'Muntari had some problems related to Ramadan, perhaps with this heat it's not good for him to be doing this (fasting). Ramadan has not arrived at the ideal moment for a player to play a football match.'The comments sparked an angry response from Muslim leader Mohamed Nour Dachan.'I think Mourinho could do with talking a little less,' he said. 'A practising (Muslim) player is not weakened because we know from the Institute of Sports Medicine that mental and psychological stability can give a sportsman an extra edge on the field.
'A player who is a believing Christian, Jew or Muslim is certainly calmer psychologically and that improves his performance.'
However, since these comments many Muslims and non-Muslims have come out in defence of Mourinho saying that no offense was meant towards the player, but while the manager could have been more tactful in his treatment of the issue it stands to reason that a lack of food and water will affect a player's stamina and energy level.
In a 2009-10 Serie A match involving Inter and Catania, Sulley Muntari was on the receiving end of one of the most bizarre incidents ever in football history. Coming on as a 79th minute substitute for Cambiasso with the match tied at 1 – 1, he promptly receives a double yellow card and a red card in a minute, and concedes a penalty that Giuseppe Mascara scored with a wonderful 81st minute chip. With a minute before full time, Martinez finished Inter off to leave the final score at 3–1.
Muntari had his first taste of an international fixture in the youth squad and was chosen for the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship as Ghana took second place. He won his first senior cap against Slovenia on 17 May 2002, and became a regular fixture in the team as The Black Stars opened their 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. He was selected for the Olympic side at Athens 2004, but was sent home for disciplinary reasons. This started a dispute between Muntari and his federation, and he said that he would refuse to play for his country again, beating the record for the youngest international retirement. He retracted, making a public apology to the federation, and was selected for the 2006 World Cup squad. He played in the first two matches, a 2–0 defeat by Italy and a 2–0 win over the Czech Republic, in which he scored, but having received a yellow cards in each game, he was suspended for the game against the United States, but returned for the second round match against Brazil, in which Ghana was eliminated.
He remained a regular member of the team, and appeared in the 2008 African Cup of Nations side, scoring the winner in the first group match against Guinea and the second goal in the last group match against Morocco. He scored his 3rd goal of the tournament when he scored a freekick against Côte d'Ivoire in the 3rd place play off. His goal against Guinea, a 25m left-footed pile-driver in the 89th minute was voted one of the Best Goals of the Tournament.
He was voted as an All-Star Player during the 2008 African Cup of Nations Tournament in Ghana. The Team of the Tournament was decided by the Technical Study Group (TSG) after careful observations of all the tournament's matches.
Although expected to play for Ghana in the 2010 African Cup of Nations in Angola, Muntari was excluded from the national team due to disciplinary problems. After purposefully missing an international friendly against Angola, he also snubbed a meeting with coach Milovan Rajevac. Muntari later issued a full apology to his country and coach.