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Sports Features Sun, 11 Sep 2011

Gyan’s latest move: pure tomfoolery or a stroke of financial genius?

Am still struggling to describe my emotions when I heard that Black Stars striker Asamoah Gyan had left Sunderland for UAE giants Al-Ain, albeit on loan.


In my spare time I act as a director for my church choir and as a routine, I take the entire family to church for rehearsals every Saturday morning.


Initially, before I left the house, I had a conversation with a great friend and colleague, Gary Al Smith, who told me that he had heard about Gyan leaving, but at the time, it sounded too incredible to be true.


So you can imagine my shock when just after rehearsals, I got a call from former Asante Kotoko, King Faisal and Tema Youth coach Isaac ‘Opeele’ Boateng telling me that Gyan had indeed moved and the story was on Sunderland’s website.


As I write I am still dumb-struck and indeed so is Sunderland manager Steve Bruce, a man who put his money where his mouth is, gambled on Gyan, who had had a terrible injury record at Rennes (remember that he hardly took part in Ghana’s qualifying run to the 2010 World Cup) and paid a club record £13 million for him on transfer deadline day last year.


Bruce had to face questions from the press after Sunderland’s 1-2 loss at home to Chelsea earlier today and revealed that until 0815GMT this morning, he had no inkling that Gyan was leaving and indeed he had shaken hands with Gyan 48 hours earlier with the understanding that the former Liberty Professionals front man was staying on Wearside.


Bruce, clearly upset at the timing of the move, might not have said so, but clearly Gyan must have told him he wanted to leave, judging by his quote that, ‘I will never keep an unhappy player.’ What is galling from Bruce’s point of view is that he has actually made Gyan a better player than he was before he moved to England.


And what about Gyan himself? Why would he make such a move at this time? Was it to get more playing time, which would be a major surprise, since Bruce was counting on him as Sunderland’s main lead striker? Was it because of a falling out? Or was it because of the thing called money?

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If you recall, I did a few stories on Gyan on transfer deadline day with regard to a possible move to Turkish giants Galatasaray.


From what I gather, Sunderland had grown weary of receiving more calls from Gyan’s agents asking for an increase in wages for their client since Gyan was currently on a reported £30,000 a week, and eventually asked for bank guarantees that Galatasaray could pay a reported €8 million for his services, but Galatasaray failed to do so, despite offering to double Gyan’s wages.


If you remember, news broke on the BBC that afternoon that Gyan had asked for a transfer to leave Sunderland but this was quickly denied by the club and Gyan himself, who told Gary Al Smith at the time that he was going nowhere and even asked whether the BBC was ‘a collection of liars too’.


With what has happened, it is only fair to ask whether he really asked to leave the club and if indeed the Sunderland hierarchy had tired of reported demands from his agents. Was it also a case of the proposed deal falling through which led to the denials? Only time will tell in perhaps one of the most bizarre of stories involving a Ghanaian footballer, especially a high-profile one as Gyan.


This is a player whose impressive displays for Liberty Professionals landed him a Ghana senior cap in 2003, when he scored on his debut, scored Ghana’s first ever World Cup goal and was undoubtedly the star of the 2010 World Cup as far as Africa was concerned. He was also voted the BBC’s 2010 African Footballer of the year and again voted the second best player in Africa by the Confederation of African Football in January 2011. After landing a dream move to Sunderland and scoring on his debut, things looked very rosy, but cracks had already started to emerge.


If you can remember, Ghana’s first 2012 African Nations Cup qualifier against Sudan in Kumasi proved a dour affair as the Black Stars failed to glitter. Gyan looked so unfocused on the pitch that I remember asking at the time whether the match was less important to him than the launch of his hit single ‘African Girls’ with music star Castro, which took place later that night.


Perhaps the red card he received that evening was actually a release for him to go early for the launch, but he managed to work hard and his goal against England in March was probably the highlight of his career to date.


At the time, Sunderland was due to face Manchester City a few days after the Ghana v England game and I remarked then that Gyan, who beat Joleon Lescott and shot past Joe Hart for Ghana’s late equalizer against the three Lions, was going to terrorise the Manchester City defence which contained both Lescott and Hart, but Manchester City walloped Sunderland 5-0 and with that result, Gyan’s performance levels began to dip.

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He is clearly a talented player and has since scored against Korea Republic and Swaziland, but hardly in the class of Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Adebayor, so hardly the finished article.


I remember seeing quotes from Bruce before the English Premier League began, which indicated that Gyan was still short of the required levels of fitness and another close friend and colleague of mine, Nana Kwaku Agyemang kept expressing his surprise at Bruce’s sentiments at the time and often wondered whether Gyan has lost a bit of focus. I would hate to say that Nana has been vindicated, but I can’t help feeling that he has indeed.


Lackluster performances in Sunderland’s first three games betrayed the fact that something was up and reading Gary Al Smith’s story on the issue on supersport.com, where Gyan is quoted as saying, ‘I have signed for Al Ain. I know this move will come as a surprise to many, considering the things that I have said in the past month. Sometimes fans would not understand why we do certain things, but in due course everything will come to light’, I just get the feeling that the issue was money and nothing else.


If I was to play the devil’s advocate, I will probably say that Gyan is entitled to think about himself after serving Ghana for the last eight years and make some money for himself and his family, things that the mega rich Al Ain club will readily give him.


He wouldn’t care about whether the United Arab Emirates Premier League, which begins on 15th October 2011, will have the same competitiveness that the EPL or the top flight leagues in Europe will have to offer. After all, will he not score more goals in the UAE?


Is it not an issue of regular playing time, which he will readily get with his new club, which would treat him like a superstar anyway? Not to mention the huge pay packet of about $200,000(£120,000) a week from his new employers, which is, in effect 4 times the wages he was on at Sunderland (courtesy some brilliant investigative work by Gary Al Smith), and why not?


After all, Samuel Eto’o went to Russia and signed for Anzhi Makachkala on a reported £360,000 a week, making him the highest paid player in world football on wages alone, excluding endorsements.


At least Gyan is now Ghana’s highest paid footballer on wages alone, outstripping Chelsea’s Michael Essien by a cool £30,000. You can argue that he is entitled to whatever decision he wants to take regarding his life.

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Indeed, because Ghana has a dearth of talent in the striking department, he will also be the first name on the Black Stars team sheet anyway, so it is a win-win situation for him.


The critics will also argue that he lacks ambition by leaving arguably one of the toughest leagues in the World for supposedly a ‘retirement home’ in the Middle East and that his time there will blunt his competitive edge, not to mention his effectiveness to the Black Stars and with Bruce seemingly shutting a door on a possible return to Sunderland, he will spend the next few years in the UAE once his loan deal is made permanent.


They would also argue that he has behaved very badly towards Sunderland which game him a platform to prove that he could mix it with the world’s best and that at the moment, he only cares about himself.


Critics will also argue that Gyan is not patient enough to work hard, score more goals for Sunderland and in a couple of years, net a lucrative move to a bigger club in Europe.


Already, various threads on facebook and other social networking sites have been inundated with many critical comments about his move, and it will be the major topic of discussion for days to come.


Overall, I think we need to ask ourselves some soul searching questions. I will be the first to declare my disappointment over the move because I feel that Gyan is wasting an opportunity to fulfill his full potential as a star striker, but am I not sounding hypocritical over here?


Take it this way; if you were offered 4 times your wages in a new job, how many of you wouldn’t up and leave your old job?


I know that I would and this is me being as frank as possible. Our collective shock at the move is because we all fear that his performances for Ghana will drop and as selfish as we are, we would want him to stay in the EPL and reject other mouth-watering offers because we all feel he will get better in England, which is very true and a valid point I will always support.

Yes, you and I might declare that his days as a top level footballer might be over, but at the end of the day, the ambition is his and not ours, so as much as we are disappointed, we will all have to wait for him to begin the adventure for us all to see whether this will turn out to be a master stroke, or a foolhardy move by Gyan.


Whichever way it goes, he will be swimming in lots of money and so will his agents as well.


Only time will tell whether this move will enhance, stagnate or maintain his progress as a footballer and in a couple of years I for one would love to know whether he is still singing, ‘We are back on and on……’ or ‘I want to go home……..’.


For us as football pundits, it is clearly an ill advised move in footballing terms and it is little more than agents looking to make money on the player, but for the player, perhaps it’s a mega payday and Christmas come early.

Source: FootyGhana