Mention the name Asamoah Gyan to a Sunderland supporter and a you will see frustration and annoyance. After a great World Cup in 2010 he arrived on Wearside as their big signing that summer. 13 months later greed took control and he headed to the Middle East at just 25 years of age to ensure his bank balance included plenty of zeros. He could have been one of the great forwards of the Premier League, but money speaks louder to some than others.
For parts one to ten of this series, please click on the links below. For criteria please see part one.
They Could Have Been one of Football’s Greatest Part 10: Asamoah Gyan
Gyan was born on 22nd November 1985 in Accra, the capital and largest city in Ghana. The forward began his career at Ghanaian Premier League side Liberty Professional in 2003. His prolific scoring record was quickly noticed and he left Ghana after playing just 16 games, scoring ten goals. Italian club Udinese saw his potential and quickly signed him. He spent five years in Italy scoring 11 goals for Udinese and 15 goals for Modena during a two-year loan spell.
His early career also brought international recognition. And even though he was young it proved to be eventful. He made his international debut at just 17 and scored his first goal for Ghana three days before his 18th birthday. It helped Ghana win the game against Somalia and made him Ghana’s youngest ever goal scorer.
He finished the World Cup qualifying campaign with four goals in seven games as Ghana qualified for the 2006 World Cup. He was also part of his country’s Olympic team in 2004. Unfortunately, his side failed to progress past the first round. However, the 2006 World Cup would prove eventful for the forward.
World Cup Hero and Villain Part One
On the 17th June, Gyan scored the fastest goal of the tournament (68 seconds) against the Czech Republic. He also missed a penalty and was booked ruling him out of the final group game during the 2-0 victory. In the last 16 game versus Brazil, Gyan was sent off for diving resulting in a second yellow card. Ghana lost the game 3-0.
Walking out, almost
During the 2008 at the African Cup of Nations, controversy was close by. After a 1-0 victory over Namibia, which was unconvincing to say the least, criticism rained down on the team. Asamoah and his brother Baffour decided to walk out. The media learned of this but with the pair about to leave the hotel with their bags packed, their team-mates persuaded them to stay.
In 2008, just one year after signing a new five year contract, Gyan was on the move. After a frustrating season, which due to injury saw him miss the second half of the campaign, Udinese opted to accept an offer of 8 million euros from French side Rennes. He signed a four-year contract with the Ligue One side. In three seasons he played 53 games scoring 14 goals, thirteen of those coming in his second season.
World Cup Hero and Villain Part Two
During the World Cup in 2010, hosted by South Africa, Gyan continued to be a World Cup hero and villain. He scored the winner in Ghana’s first group match against Serbia and then the equaliser against Australia. These results ensured they qualified for the last 16. Against USA, Gyan scored an extra time winner to take Ghana into the quarter-final.
Gyan was on the top of his game in the match against Uruguay but it could have been so much better. With the game heading into extra time, Luis Suarez handled the ball on the goal line. Gyan missed the resulting penalty with the very last kick of the game. The Black Stars went out of the competition 4-2 in the penalty shootout.
Move To Sunderland
On the 31st August 2010, Gyan signed for English Premier League side Sunderland. The £13 million deal broke Sunderland’s transfer record. He signed a four-year deal worth a reported £50,000 per week.
His first season at his new club went well. He came on as a half-time substitute on his debut versus Wigan Athletic and promptly scored the game’s opening goal. His debut season in the Premier League brought 11 goals in 36 games. Not bad for his first season and at times it looked like he could become a genuine Premier League star.
The Lure of Even More Money Part One
The beginning of the following season saw no goals in his first matches. His head was then turned by a big money move elsewhere. Big money for him anyway. This was not a big transfer fee deal to Manchester, Milan or Madrid; it was to United Arab Emirates side AL-Ain FC. The deal would allegedly give Gyan up to four times the salary he was on at Sunderland. The Black Cats obviously wanted to keep the striker but his head had been turned by money. At this point Sunderland went about trying to secure the best deal for themselves.
The initial deal made was for Gyan to go to AL-Ain on a season-long loan. Sunderland would receive £6 million from the deal. Gyan scored a total of 27 goals during this spell, helping his side win the title.
In 2012 with the striker unwilling to return to Sunderland, he signed permanently with Al-Ain FC with tax free wages reported to be around £6 million per season. Sunderland’s fee is undisclosed but reports suggest that they received an extra £4 million plus a percentage of any future transfer fee. During the next three seasons the forward scored plenty of goals; however it was in a poor league compared to the standard he had been used to.
The Lure of Even More Money Part Two
In the summer of 2015, Gyan confirmed he would be moving on again. He made the announcement via his own website that he was off to the Chinese Super League. Shanghai SIPG FC would be his next stop with a salary of £227,000 coming with it. This salary made him not only the highest paid player at the club but one of the best paid players in the world. However, recurring injuries has not made this move a successful one.
Latest reports suggest that Gyan could be on the move once more. Shanghai have recently purchased Brazilian forward Hulk and this may make Gyan surplus to requirements.
Financially he would have been hard pressed to make as much money elsewhere in football. However, money isn’t everything in football, especially when many are very well paid to begin with. It makes you wonder what might have been had he continued to ply his trade in Europe. What if he stayed on at Sunderland for while longer and continued to impress? Maybe a big money move to one of Europe’s to clubs? He may now be the proud owner of many medals.
Unfortunately you can’t help but think that Asamoah Gyan was not in this for the love of the game. It was purely for the quick financial benefits.