Sometimes it feels like the whole of Ghana is collectively preparing for the day that Asamoah Gyan will say his goodbyes to the national team.
Every time a new striker emerges on the scene, the national sports conversation turns to whether he could be Gyan’s long-term successor… much like when the country obsessed over whether Gyan himself would fill Abedi Pele’s considerable boots.
It’s an indication of the 32-year-old’s standing in Ghana — the fact that he is mentioned in the same breath as the legendary Ghanaian Pele — and it’s a status that has been thoroughly earned, according to former international teammate Laryea Kingston.
“Asamoah Gyan is a living legend in Ghana football,” Kingston tells KweséESPN. “The things he has done in a Ghana shirt deserves nothing but respect.”
Gyan, who sits at 224 on this year’s ESPN World Fame list, thinks so too, apparently. He recently told KweséESPN that “it is not easy replacing someone who has done so much”.
He is Ghana’s record goalscorer, with 51 in 105 appearances, but as the national team’s success has receded in recent years, most notably failing to reach the World Cup this year, so too has his standing in the team.
So, when Black Stars coach Kwesi Appiah recently left him out of his squad for two friendly games against Japan and Iceland, there was barely an eyebrow raised.
“I think it’s been obvious for some time now that we have to prepare for when he is no longer involved in international football,” Appiah tells KweséESPN.
Kingston agrees though he warns against casting Gyan to the scrapheap straight away: “Whatever happens, he will be vital for the Black Stars as the coach tries to build a new team.
“He has an unbelievable experience at this level and Appiah needs him around to guide the young ones. But it is obvious that everyone is preparing for a Black Stars team without him. That is what has to be done.”
Gyan likely feels he has one more shot at international glory in him and, with Ghana missing out on a trip to Russia, that means attention now turns to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Appiah agrees and says that injuries permitting, Gyan could still be his go-to guy for the tournament in Cameroon in January next year.
“He has had his issues with injuries, but if he is fit then he will be very important for the team in that tournament. After that … you can’t really tell because in football a lot of things can happen.”
Kingston has seen many players ushered out of the Black Stars set-up prematurely, but he senses there has been a conscious effort to manage Gyan’s transition better.
“You can tell that when he comes to the national team, he is saving himself for the big days. He doesn’t train every day and it is obvious that they are managing him better because as he ages and the injuries set in more often, you need that.
“I don’t know how long he can keep going, but I hope the team continues to make the most of him.”
Much of that will rely on Gyan’s form at club level, where he is at a major crossroads in his career. He moved to Turkish club Kayserispor in 2017, after six years in the money-rich leagues of the United Arab Emirates and China failed. He played only 17 games in Turkey (scoring four goals) as he shuffled between pitch and the treatment table.
To that end, a close friend and manager Samuel Anim Addo hints at a move away from Kayserispor, saying one more ‘significant’ transfer is on the cards.
“He came to Turkey because he wanted to prove that he can play at what is considered a high level again,” Addo tells KweséESPN.
“Injuries have not helped, but we are all confident that he will make one significant move before it all comes to an end. He has always been happy to prove a point.”
For all his troubles in the past year, Gyan has two international goals in four games, including a fantastic free-kick in a friendly against the United States in July.
He is also still Africa’s leading World Cup scorer with six goals, three of which three came at the 2010 tournament in South Africa where, as then assistant coach Appiah points out, the world witnessed Gyan “in his full glory: power, pace, control and finishing”.
One game after that, however, Gyan missed a penalty against Uruguay that would have earned Africa a first-ever semifinal berth at the World Cup.
South Africa 2010 was a tournament that perfectly summed up Gyan’s international career: brilliant for long spells, but frustrating in key moments (missing another penalty in the 2012 Nations Cup semifinals against Zambia that would have booked a final berth).
Still, Appiah believes that when Gyan’s Black Stars ties are finally cut, he will be remembered for the good he did rather than the odd negative moment.
“He has a burning desire to win and when he has not been injured, he has been terrific player who has given his absolute all for Ghana.”