In football and many other sports, contracts are not worth the ink they’re written with these days. It is increasingly rare for a player to see out his contract. Clubs often try to get a player for cheap and then sell him for more money or a player engineers a move away for guess what? More money. The bottom line in either instance is often MONEY. Darren Bent did it last season, Wayne Rooney complained his way to a fatter paycheck and Samir Nasri did it at the start of this season. Occasionally, a player like Cesc Fabregas comes along who is so desperate for sentimental reasons to play for a particular club that they even offer their own money to make it happen. Otherwise, the prevailing attitude is that the dollar is green in every part of the world so if someone, anyone offers more of it you reach out with hands and feet and grab it.
The latest example in this trend is Ghanaian striker Asamoah ‘Baby Jet’ Gyan. Al Ain? More like ‘all in’ as soon as ‘Asa,’ as Sunderland manager Steve Bruce calls him, heard he could make at least four times what he was making at Sunderland. Now, he’s undoubtedly the highest paid Ghanaian footballer. Today, on radio it was reported that it would have taken Gyan nine years on his Sunderland pay to make what he’s going to make this year at the Emirates club. Hyperbole? Perhaps. Still, it’s an awful lot of money to turn down. Especially when you consider that with tax considerations (UAE = 0% and UK =50%) Gyan’s take home pay is jaw dropping. Mothers all over Ghana are pulling their kids out of school and trying to enroll them at one of the many football academies springing up over the country as we speak!!!
The coverage when news broke of a year-long loan move to the Emirates was directed at the player’s motivations -**ahem** money – for taking his talents East. In the last two days however, it is clear Gyan and Niall Quinn were at least pursuing similar interests – money. Quinn came out publicly to ostensibly say what was evident all along but which Bruce was either unaware of or ignored to make himself look more sympathetic in the fans eyes. Sunderland gained from the deal. Six million pounds for a loan deal is unheard of. Basically, Al Ain said we’ll not only take the player’s wages off your books for the year but oh here,’s 6 million to add to that. Make no mistake, if Sunderland were losing out financially, they would likely not have agreed to it. After all, 48 hours before the deal, Gyan was ready to stay and make the best out of the situation. He and Bruce shook hands, hugged, made up and all that good stuff. All this peace pipe smoking and the subsequent ‘betrayal’ all made for some interesting drama as neatly captured here. But as Tottenham Hotspurs have shown in the case of Luka Modric if you own a player and don’t want to sell him you don’t have to.
So let’s not get it twisted. This deal is all about money, money, money and no one should offer any sporting explanation for why this deal makes sense. The notion that you can leave the most competitive league in the World where your mettle is tested week in week out against top opposition and go to some unheard of team in the Gulf in what is the physical prime of your life and somehow improve is insulting. Rio Ferdinand’s tweet upon hearing the deal said it all. “Wow, Gyan left the PL for UAE…at 23 or whatever he is #baffled! If he was in his 30s I could understand,” said Ferdinand.
Bruce had earlier on given his views on ‘parasites.’ Let’s just say he doesn’t like them. To my mind, the only bad advice Gyan’s gotten so far from these so-called parasites is to not fully own the reason he’s left Sunderland. It’s not about football. It’s about MONEY!!! It’s about the chance to secure your financial future. Al Ain showed him the money and he’s gone. Watching Gyan’s press conference however, you would be mistaken for thinking he was there on a mission to discover the sand dunes of the UAE and to help his new team ‘win trophies.’
On one hand, I totally understand taking the decision to make more money. People do it all the time. Yet, in this case, I’m reminded of the 1992 movie ‘Mo Money’ and a song on its soundtrack which suggests money can’t buy you love or happiness. Seeing that Steve Bruce gave him the chance to play consistently on a big stage it comes across as ungrateful to demand that the club rips up the contract to pay you more after only one year with them. And in the case that your wages are not improved you want out. Only God knows what he’d have demanded had he played as good as say West Bromwich Albion’s Peter Odemwingie 15 goals.
It will be interesting to see how Gyan continues to develop ahead of the African Cup of Nations. Will he be as sharp as he could be playing in the Premier League? There’s nothing like playing against the best and Al Ain will not provide him that level of competition. From the moment he landed at Sunderland, Bruce was unhappy with his fitness. How will a less demanding league play into that aspect of his game and in turn affect the national team? Also, how would earning such big monies affect his attitude to national team call ups? Will he be able to retain that hunger that keeps the top athletes constantly motivated even when they’re earning more? Gyan’s love for entertainment is well documented. Could access to this much money provide even more distractions? Should answers to some of these questions be negative then the face of the national team may continue to change even more radically than I detailed here.