Ghana international Asamoah Gyan has joined United Arab Emirates side Al-Ain on a permanent deal, following a loan spell at the Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium last season.
Having signed for Sunderland of the Premier League in August 2010, Gyan enjoyed an impressive start to life in England in his debut season, netting 10 times in 34 league games. However, things quickly turned sour for the striker as he accepted a loan move to Al-Ain in September 2011, infuriating then-Sunderland manager Steve Bruce as well as the club’s fans.
The loan deal – rumoured to include a £6 million payment to Sunderland, as well as Gyan’s Sunderland wages being quadrupled – led Bruce to express his anger on what he viewed as a transfer made behind his back: “I had a conversation with [Gyan] 48 hours ago and he assured me, he shook my hand, that he wanted to be a Sunderland player…[but] all of a sudden within a few hours it seems things have changed.”
Gyan openly admitted that the financial benefits of the loan had been a key reason in his move, describing the deal as “too good to refuse.” With the United Arab Emirates typically a destination for over-the-hill internationals looking for one last payday, Gyan had moved to Al-Ain aged just 25, prompting Bruce to tell English press: “I don’t think he’s got a future here.”
While Sunderland initially missed Gyan’s goals – Bruce was sacked in November with the club having won just 2 of its opening 13 Premier League games – they soon recovered under new manager Martin O’Neill, reaching the quarter-final of the FA Cup and finished mid-table in the league.
Gyan also enjoyed success, becoming the UAE Pro-League’s top scorer with 22 goals in just 18 games as Al-Ain cruised to the title. With O’Neill also reluctant to welcome Asamoah back into the first-team picture at the Stadium of Light – saying “you wouldn’t really want somebody who is really unwilling to come back to the football club” – the Accra-born attacker has unsurprisingly decided to join Al-Ain on a permanent basis.
The 58-cap Ghana international may be Al-Ain’s biggest star, but he is by no means the first to make the transition from Premier League to Pro League: former Coventry and Aston Villa midfielder Mustapha Hadji joined the club in 2004, while ex-Portsmouth coach Alain Perrin managed The Boss in the same year.