Ghana’s all-time highest goalscorer is preparing to take on a fresh challenge in his career which could prove successful though brief
By: Sammie Frimpong
Asia may have given him a bigger fortune than what even the best footballers in the world could ever dream of, but there surely exists a part of Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan which has always pined for one more go in football’s brightest lights before his life in the sport expired.
And while the 30-year-old may not have wished that dream to be fulfilled this soon, fate — suffered through a combination of poor form, fitness challenges and one huge Brazilian at his Shanghai SIPG base — has forced him back to the Old Continent for the rest of the season in the colours of one of its bigger clubs. In Besiktas, Gyan has settled on, not just the reigning Turkish champions, but a club in the European city geographically closest to the continent second-dearest to him, Asia (only half of Istanbul is European territory, in fact).
It also does seem, football-wise, that there couldn’t have been a more relaxed setting in which to re-launch himself in the limelight, even if only temporarily. Turkish football isn’t feasted on by many who crave top-level European action, but it‘s hardly a bad place to play. Besiktas, courtesy their coronation as winners of the previous Super Lig season, have earned automatic passage to the 2016/17 Uefa Champions League edition’s group stage, and Gyan could enjoy a key role on that front.
Playtime would be almost guaranteed, as he’s apparently being signed as a direct replacement for departed German Mario Gomez who — on loan from Fiorentina — netted 26 goals for the Black Eagles as they romped to a first league title in seven years. If there’s going to be any pressure on Gyan, it might only be imposed by the legacy Gomez refused to build any further due to Turkey’s volatile political situation. Gomez’s haul was the highest of any scorer in the league, accounting for just under 35% of his side’s goals. It isn’t a record Gyan is incapable of matching or even bettering, of course — he consistently proved his worth at Al Ain in the UAE with the 95 league goals he spread across four seasons. Worrying, though, is the fact that, after being plagued by injury during his year-long stint in China and being a little older than he was when setting the Gulf alight in his prime, Gyan isn’t the same man anymore.
Doubts would linger over whether he really is in any shape — mentally and physically — to lead a title-defence quest and an European charge but, then again, Gyan has long been the type to produce when you least expect him to (although the opposite could be just as true) and this loan move could provide the latest platform on which to silence his critics. Indeed, rather than Gomez’s heroics intimidating Gyan, the Black Stars captain could draw much inspiration from them. The ex-Bayern Munich forward, prior to his short-lived stay at Besiktas, wasn’t very successful in Italy and had been written off as ageing and spent. In Turkey’s slightly dimmed spotlight, however, Gomez rediscovered some of his best form and had obtained cult status by the time he exited the scene. It is an act Gyan could emulate, bringing his vast experience to bear where his diminished strengths may have deserted him. And if Gyan is a believer in omens, it might help his confidence — albeit in a somewhat unorthodox way — that Gomez, like the Ghanaian, also seems a huge fan of the number ‘3’ (it has featured heavily on his shirts at both club and international level throughout his career), and the No.33-labelled jersey he left vacant in the Vodafone Arena’s home dressing room could easily be Gyan’s to claim.
In it, the Baby Jet could make his most lasting — and perhaps last — impression in European football, before heading towards another obscure destination for that final pay-day he’s probably been eyeing.