Echo comment: Chris Young
The completion of Asamoah Gyan’s move to the Middle East brings a conclusion to a saga that has dogged Sunderland ever since the Ghanaian turned his back on Wearside.
As soon as Gyan made the staggering decision to swap the Premier League for a get-rich-quick scheme in the United Arab Emirates, he effectively signed the death warrant on his Sunderland career.
Steve Bruce made little attempt to hide his disgust at Gyan’s season-long loan switch last September and privately preached that the striker would never play for him again.
His chairman at the time, Niall Quinn, attempted to diffuse the situation by offering a ray of hope that Gyan could return.
“The olive branch is there for Asamoah to return but he will need to convince Steve, the board and every fan of his commitment,” said Quinn.
But, in reality, it was a smoke screen to ensure Sunderland maximised the return on their investment in Gyan.
Quinn, like Bruce, privately realised Gyan would never have a future at the Stadium of Light after sulking his way towards the exit door.
Gyan had returned to pre-season training last summer overweight and was clearly unsettled during Sunderland’s friendly programme and the opening three Premier League games of the season.
The hope was that Gyan would settle once the August transfer window slammed shut and Bruce had a heart-to-heart with the former Rennes striker during the early days of September.
But when a delegation from oil-rich Al-Ain arrived at the Academy of Light on September 9, Gyan sniffed the almighty dollar and wrapped up the move within a matter of hours.
The manner of that exit left a bitter taste among players, supporters and the club’s hierarchy and there looked precious little chance of a reconciliation.
Martin O’Neill’s arrival sparked a brief prospect that Gyan could return this summer at the end of his loan, with Bruce’s successor pledging to offer a clean slate to his squad.
But O’Neill was questioned about Gyan within days of his arrival, when he had little chance to gauge the situation on the 26-year-old.
It didn’t take long for O’Neill to discover, from those already at the club, the reasons behind Gyan’s departure and the factors that clearly motivated one of the stand-out performers of the 2010 World Cup.
In the end, there was no conciliatory phone call and no attempt to bring Gyan back to Wearside as the solution to Sunderland’s striking problems.
“You wouldn’t really want somebody who is unwilling to come back to the football club,” O’Neill tellingly said at the end of last season.
Sunderland have now achieved their objective of ridding Gyan from the wage bill and ensuring they didn’t make a loss on their investment in the African.
As for Gyan, the manner of his exit utterly overshadows the brief contribution he made in red and white.
After arriving in a sea of publicity on transfer deadline day in August 2010, Gyan began to charm both fans and journalists alike before finally making an impression on the field when he shook off the excess pounds by November.
Either side of Christmas, while Darren Bent was in the treatment room, Gyan looked the real deal.
He was sharp, quick, boasted immaculate control and was ice cool in front of goal – assets he demonstrated to devastating effect in Sunderland’s memorable 3-0 victory at Chelsea.
But when Bent’s departure was coupled with an injury to Danny Welbeck, Gyan was left alone as Sunderland’s sole striker, and complacency began to set in.
Gyan found the net just once in red and white over the final three months of the 2010-11 campaign despite the arrival of fellow Ghanaian Sulley Muntari.
He fared little better at the start of last season when he displayed all the hallmarks of a player far from match fit and far from mentally fit.
Ultimately it is that image of a labouring striker who had the talent, but was unable to muster sufficient effort to show it, which Gyan will be remembered for.
It may come as little consolation, but as far as failed experiments go, at least Sunderland’s bank balance hasn’t born the brunt.
Twitter: @ youngsunecho