He was the face of a World Cup, now he's intent on throwing it all away.
Every tournament has an icon. A defining image. A moment. The 2010 South Africa World Cup was no exception. From the moment Siphiwe Tshabalala single-handedly caused a nationwide eruption of celebration, the world took the African nations to their hearts. The sheer joy. The unrestrained, raw emotion stamped permanently across the face of every fan was a sight to behold. A continent, united by football, showcased to the planet in a breathtaking spectacle of colour. But there was one team who fought, powered and danced to the top of the African tree. Ghana.
Victory over Serbia, a solid draw with Australia and a narrow loss to European-giants Germany would ensure the Black Stars safe passage to the knockout stage. A triumph for a side ranked 34th in the world with only one previous World Cup adventure under their belts. And that was just the launchpad of Ghanaian popularity. They were the last African side standing when they took on the US.
A dogged team performance combined with pure pace and power saw Ghana march into the lead before being pegged back, taking the game to extra-time. If I was a TV pundit, I'd now be saying: "...this game will be decided by one moment of magic, just one player needs to do something special." How right that more than likely clueless TV pundit would prove to be. With 93 minutes on the clock, Asamoah Gyan, with two tournament goals already to his name, shattered through the defence and drove the ball past a helpless Tim Howard, sparking the dance we all now know and love as 'The Bolo Zenden Dance.' It really was magic.
So when Uruguay came to town, it was a case of Uruguay v the rest of the world. It then led to Luis Suarez v the rest of the world. Of course, you know the story. With the game level and seemingly rocketing towards penalties, the 'loveable' striker pulled off his best goalkeeper impression and saved on the goal-line. Red card, penalty. With the weight of every man, woman and child on the planet squarely on his shoulders. That man Gyan rifled the ball into the bar. Stunning. Drama. Football. The joy, the audulation, the pride torn from the 24-year-old's face in a mere second.
Uruguay went on to win the penalty shootout but prior to victory, Gyan hauled himself to his feet and struck home the first penalty in a freakish act of courage bordering on madness. Post-match, the pictures should be filled with a team's celebrations, but instead the cameras turned to the tormented, inconsolable figure of Asamoah Gyan. That was the defining moment. The icon.
Soon after, Gyan signed for my beloved team. Sunderland. He won African Player of the Year ahead of Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o. He became an instant cult hero with the fans. But perhaps his greatest achievement was in getting me to part with £10 for "Gyan 33" on the back of my shirt. Such was my delight at the fact we could enjoy the World Cup icon week-in week-out.
He took time to settle-in, regain fitness and adjust to the rigours of the English game but he still tallied 10 goals and 4 assists in 31 league games. Impressive considering 11 of those appearances were from the substitute bench.
Along came Lionel Sessi in January 2011 and by this point, the prospect of the Benin playmaker and Gyan alongside one another was simply spectacular, although this appeared premature as Sessegnon endured a tough start to his Premier League career.
Nevertheless, he settled towards the end of the season and fans could once again dream of our all-African, all-action frontline. Until the Arabs came calling. The completely ridiculous news filtered through suggesting wor Asamoah was on his way to Dubai. "HA" we all said in derision. "Never!" we joked. "Don't be daft!" we laughed. 10/09/11. Asamoah Gyan signs loan deal with Al-Ain. Say what?!
Yes, it happened. A world record loan fee, a ridiculous weekly payrise and a multi-million pound mountain of cash just for putting pen to paper awaited Mr Gyan. He ended up top scorer in the world-reknowned UAE Pro-League with 22 goals in 18 games, beating former-Wolfsberg hitman Grafite into joint second place with household-name and Senegalese striker Andre Senghor on 16 goals. This led the Dubai side to signing our man permanently earlier this week.
Maybe ever-increasingly fashionable, pre-retirement moves to the MLS, Dubai, China and the Anzhi revolution do raise the profile of the game. They may attract a wider audience and expand the popularity of the sport. But you, I and every other person with even a slight interest in football knows it's the money. Gyan knew it was the money. His weekly wage has gone from a measly £40,000-a-week to a reported £140,000-a-week. The deal Gyan has just signed is rumoured to be worth over £36million AFTER tax, across five years. Obscene.
But is it really worth it? I mean, he was our top earner. He was hardly poor, so when people say "you would move to do the same job somewhere else for triple the pay" I don't buy into it. Of course I would move. But that's because in the real world people need money to live. Asamoah Gyan earned more money in around three days at Sunderland than many, many people would in an entire year. He should've realised he has a unique job. Where else would you get the opportunity to control the emotions of thousands of loyal fans?
Had he stayed in the Premier League under the guidance of Martin O'Neill, he would have fulfilled the star potential. Yes, he could be lazy. Yes, he could disappear sometimes during games. But with a kick up the proverbial, he would have excelled. Maybe we wouldn't have kept him but Gyan would still be plying his trade at another big club in the world's best leagues.
Asamoah Gyan swapped the 80,000 manic fans at Soccer City, South Africa and countless more in the Premier League for a money-fuelled Arabian move, where in the game just before his signing, the attendance stood at just 353 supporters.
It's a shame, not even because we have to find a new striker, but for his own sake.