When Asamoah Gyan walks into the plush press conference room at Al Ain’s Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium he looks every inch the high-profile football player.
The man who led Ghana to the semi-finals of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations and last eight at the 2010 World Cup exudes confidence, from the diamond encrusted sunglasses that never leave his face, to the blinged-out t-shirt and oversized watch, Gyan does not give off the impression of a man who suffers from internal doubt.
So it might seem strange for the 26-year-old to declare himself “not the outgoing type” when quizzed on the aspects of life in the Garden City that he has most enjoyed.
Apparently his forays into the cultural side of Al Ain have been restricted to trips to the mall with his friends and family and a couple of jaunts up Jebel Hafeet.
The Ghanaian admits he initially found it difficult when he moved from English Premier League side Sunderland, not least because of the constant questions about why he had made the switch, but with the help of the club and his family he has found a city where he is “100 per cent” happy.
“Before I came to Al Ain everything was a bit strange, people were talking about why I came to Al Ain but in life things happen and everything you do people talk about you,” Gyan explained. “It was a bit difficult when I first came here. I lived here for maybe two months alone without my family.
“So, I needed to steady the environment and everything but after my family and friends came I was feeling at home, I was playing football and I was playing well.
“That’s the most important thing my family are around me now and that’s all I need and the football aspect is down to me.
“I would say outside of football my family is the most important thing and I’ve got my family around so I’m happy.”
Gyan may have been struggling off the field while he waited for his two brothers to join him in Al Ain, but he didn’t let that anguish show on the pitch as he scored on his debut for the club, an underwhelming 1-1 Etisalat Cup draw with Emirates in Ras Al Khaimah.
The former Udinese and Rennes hitman has not looked back since that game at the start of October, and has gone on to score 24 goals in all competitions, including 19 in just 16 Pro-League outings. Those goals powered The Boss to an unprecedented 10th league title, but Gyan is refusing to take all the credit for that success or his position as the division’s top scorer.
“When a team plays good that’s when their strikers score more easily. Even when I was in England the first part of the season the team was playing well so I was scoring my goals but then we had our difficulties and we lost 10 games in row,” Gyan reflected, referring to his time at Sunderland where he scored 10 Premier League goals in total but only one in his last 11 games as the club struggled.
“It depends how the team plays, when the team plays good the strikers will also do their job, they will get enough chances to score more goals.
“Nothing is easy in this world, especially when you are on top. When a striker is the top scorer every defence will be coming for that striker. It’s never been easy but the main reason why I’m scoring more is that the playing body, the team is doing well and everybody is doing their jobs excellently.
“That is where the chances come from. I’ll give credit to the team and the tactics we play.”
However, if defenders at Al Shabab and Ajman – The Boss’ two final opponents of the season – think Gyan will be taking it easy against them with the league in the bag, they are in for a shock.
The Ghanaian is desperate to finish on top of the scoring charts: “I’ve not been the top scorer since I left my country and the league is not over but I’m the leading scorer.
“If I finish as the top scorer then I’ll be very happy and it would leave something big here and people will remember me for that.”
Staying or going?
Talk of leaving “something big” for the fans would suggest Gyan is ready to call time on his adventure in the UAE’s Oasis city and his answers on his immediate future become ambiguous.
The Ghanaian admits he has received offers “from a lot of clubs” other than Al Ain, stressing that his future will not be resolved until the end of the current campaign.
“Honestly I’m very happy since I came here everything seems to be perfect. Definitely if you go somewhere and everything there is perfect you want to stay but we are still in negotiations and we will have to wait and see until the end of my loan deal,” Gyan reveals.
The Ghanaian later nudges the exit door even further ajar, saying, “It could be anywhere, and I’m ready to go anywhere and I need to make the right decision. I think any decision I make I think has to be the right decision for me, not for the people.”
One subject Gyan certainly is not ambiguous about is a potential return to international football with Ghana. The 26-year-old took an ‘indefinite break’ from the Black Stars after he was pilloried in his homeland for missing a penalty in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final defeat to Zambia, which came less than two years after he hit the bar against Uruguay at the World Cup to deny his side a place in the last four.
But with new Ghana coach James Kwesi Appiah in Dubai to discuss a possible return for Gyan, the striker revealed he would be back – and insisted the flak he took in Ghana had nothing to do with his decision.
“As a star of a team when things go wrong you get criticism and I accept any criticism because I have created this for myself,” he explained. “It wasn’t about the criticisms, it was psychological reasons and nothing else so I have to psych myself up and go back strongly to the team.
“I think it will be very soon, I have never quit on my national team.
“For example my national team made me famous not my club side that is what I see in my career. I became famous when playing in a World Cup with my national team, so I cannot ignore them.”
"I feel comfortable with Cosmin because he’s done an incredible job so far and I would say he’s behind my move to Al Ain because he showed interest in me. Since I came he gave me confidence, we speak face to face, if he doesn’t like anything he tells me. We speak like father and son. Omar Abdulrahman Omar has incredible technique, he has really impressed me. When I came here he was injured but I saw his videos and I said this guy can play anywhere. He needs a bit of power but that is all he needs.
Pro League v Premier League:
I’d say the Premier League is the top in the world and I do respect that. I’ve tasted it before, I know the difference. Talking about the UAE league I’d say the slight difference is the atmosphere, the fans shouting, pushing their players to go higher, that’s the only thing I don’t see that here but in terms of football I see the same thing.
I’m somebody who likes to associate myself with people but the language is very, very difficult. Everywhere you go you have to learn the bad words first! I’m being honest, if you want to learn any language you have to learn the bad words first before you go to the good words.
Al Ain fans:
I think they are incredible fans, they’ve done an amazing job, even when we play away they come in their numbers and they love the team. I think they’ve done well and I was even surprised when I returned from the Cup of Nations and they came to greet me.
Writing a song for the club:
I was planning to do something like that. I have muscial talent so I could do something like that. But against Jazira I was singing with my friends in my language you probably didn’t understand what I was singing but it was for Al Ain.