The striker is back in the land where his career reached its peak and should fancy his prospects
By: Sammie Frimpong
It may have smacked of desperation in the end but Ghana skipper Asamoah Gyan wouldn’t mind. He needed, more than anything else this summer, a loan move from Chinese Super League outfit Shanghai SIPG where a combination of poor health, consequently dipped performance levels and a certain huge Brazilian rendered him a white elephant.
To his credit, Gyan never lacked options. Turkish champions Besiktas were the early leaders in the race to secure the Ghanaian but, for some reason, that pursuit eventually fell through. Next came English suitors — from both the Premier League and Championship — queuing for a man who’d proven his worth briefly for top-flight club Sunderland before opting for Asian adventures. Second-tier Reading seemed the most likely destination till the move got botched, reportedly because Gyan couldn’t sail through the required medical tests (a rumour the Baby Jet has since denied).
With that latest failure occurring so close to the end of Europe’s shopping period, Gyan’s short-term future had to go down to the wire. Fortunately for the forward, he didn’t have to switch continents; even better, having been rescued by UAE outfit Al-Ahli, the 30-year-old retreats to the very destination where his most rewarding years as a footballer thus far have been spent.
Gyan, between 2012 and 2015, starred for — and attained cult status at — Al-Ain, the UAE Arabian Gulf League’s record champions, scoring some 116 goals and claiming a good haul of domestic silverware while at it. He was thrice the league’s topscorer, quite memorably, establishing himself as one of Asian club football’s most potent finishers — also topping the 2014 AFC Champions League’s scoring charts, remember? — before being prised away by the big-money deal which took him to China this time last year.
It isn’t just the setting which would be pleasantly familiar for the returning Gyan, though. Al-Ahli’s head coach, Romanian Cosmin Olăroiu, was the man who recruited Gyan for Al-Ain back in 2012, with the pair winning a couple of titles together before the former assumed his current post. Arguably the most successful of all coaches currently working in the UAE, Olăroiu won the championship on three consecutive occasions (across his spells with Al-Ain and Al-Ahli), lost the crown to his former club in 2014/15, before wrestling it back a season later. Gyan thus joins the Gulf country’s reigning kings, taking up the slot in the Dubai-based club’s foreign player quota allocations vacated by temporarily departed Senegalese striker Moussa Sow, and is set to play a key role as the Knights seek to retain the title for the first time under Olăroiu.
“Now is a new challenge for me and I can’t wait to start with Al-Ahli, because Al-Ahli is also a big club, a great club with good fans so I hope they wait for me and everything will be fine,” Gyan said in a video message posted on Twitter by 3news.com.
“We start a new challenge, they know what I can do,” he added. “But we don’t dwell on the past now. I’m looking forward to a new goal with the club and making sure the UAE league is exciting.”
It’s a sense of optimism that is hugely refreshing following a window of disappointments, and Gyan could only build on it in the hope of a quick return to happier days.