When Swansea City announced the permanent appointment of former player Garry Monk as their new head coach in February 2014, the general consensus was that the young manager would be gone by the end of the season. Fast forward to the end of the following season, and Swans fans can look back upon a season in which their side recorded a club record Premier League finish, despite the loss of talismanic striker Wilfried Bony to Manchester City for another club record initial fee of £25 million. Bony’s departure to pastures new was an obvious blow to the Welsh side’s ambitions, but Monk has wasted no time utilising the funds raised from his sale to rebuild his side.
In 2002, Swansea avoided falling out of the Football League on the final day of the season; fast forward to 2015 and Garry Monk has masterminded what many have called the Barclays Premier League ‘deal of the window’ so far, capturing Ghanaian international, André Ayew, on a free transfer from French giants, Marseille. For a number of years, the forward has been linked to a host of top European sides, and the decision to join a relatively unknown mid-table English side is sure to have shocked many across the continent. However, with the player allowing his contract to run down with his former employers, the question remains as to why a larger, more established outfit did not make a move to secure the signature of a player that so often has been touted as a top talent. Here we take a look at the ins and outs of the deal with Swansea, and the possible reasons behind Europe’s elite not to invest in the player.
The footballing gene pool of the Ayew family is one of the strongest in the world. Brothers Ibrahim and Jordan are both professional players, with the latter expected to make a big money move of his own this summer after an impressive season with French side, Lorient. The source of this footballing bloodline lies in the veins of Ayew’s father, Abedi Pele, who many consider to be the greatest African footballer of all time. The former Ghanaian international scored 157 goals in a 20 year career, which included spells in France, Italy and Germany. Despite the massive shadow cast by the successful career of his father, André has forged a story of his own, and after an impressive return of 44 goals in 160 appearances for Marseille, Ayew began to receive numerous plaudits for his performances.
The impression made for the French outfit resulted in his selection for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, with Ayew playing a key role in the side which reached the quarter finals, and were only denied a place in the semi’s due to Luis Suarez’s infamous handball, with the resulting penalty being missed by former Sunderland striker, Asamoah Gyan. Ayew may also look back fondly upon the 2014 tournament, in which he found the net twice in performances against the United States and eventual winners, Germany. After both tournaments, the player was linked with a move abroad, with Arsène Wegner reported to have been interested in securing the players signature. The move never materialised, and the attacker carried his impressive form into his final season with Marseille.
L’OM looked set to wrestle the title from reigning champions PSG’s grasp in the early stages of the 2014-15 season, before a lack of squad depth started to show, and PSG surged to the title with Marseille eventually finishing in fourth position. Ayew was one of his side’s top performers throughout the season, but was perhaps overshadowed by the form of fellow winger, Dimitri Payet, who is reportedly close to joining West Ham United for a fee in the region of £14 million. The Frenchman bagged 7 goals and registered 17 assists from the wing, and his form had seen Ayew’s position in the limelight come under threat. This is one possible reason for Ayew’s failure to have been acquired by a top 10 European side, and when Payet’s form is combined with Marseille’s collapse in the second half of the season; many scouts may have lost interest in the former BBC African Player of the Year.
In his final season, André played in no less than 8 positions within the Marseille team over the course of the year, yet still registered an average WhoScored.com rating of 7.42. There is no doubting where he most effectively operates on the pitch, with the player directly contributing to 8 goals in only 13 appearances from the wide left position of an attacking trio. With Ayew and Payet on the wings, and 21 goal striker André-Pierre Gignac leading the line, Marseille boasted an impressive attacking trio. However, Ayew also found himself utilised further back, playing games across the midfield, and even filling in at left back in one outing. This is due to injuries suffered by his side, and this lack of depth forced head coach, Marcelo Bielsa, to use one of his prized attacking outlets further towards his own goal, with this lack of depth ultimately contributing to Marseille’s stuttering title bid. Despite his clubs failings, Ayew proved to be a real asset going forward, and also proved himself to be competent in other areas of the field, suggesting the player to be extremely adaptable and versatile when called upon. Surely this would only add to the credentials of the Ghanaian, and with the big clubs so often linked to him in the past competing on multiple fronts, a player of this nature would surely strengthen any squad.
Both Ayew’s club and international record speaks for itself, and on paper the player looks to be a world beater. Ayew appears to be extremely talented, and possess the ability to not only take on and beat defenders when deployed in his favoured wide position, but is also strong in the air, may be considered a tough tackling midfielder, and to sum it all up, holds an eye for goal. Such a cocktail of attributes raises eyebrows, and suggests the player to be a real all-rounder. Ghana seems to be a hot bed for this kind of player, with Juventus’ Kwadwo Asamoah also matching many of the descriptions attributed to his countryman. If ability is not an issue, than perhaps the age old disease that has restricted the career of many potential stars is a factor; attitude. Football is a commitment, and to be the best a player must exhibit the correct attitude. Take Cristiano Ronaldo for example. The 3 time Ballon D’Or partakes in hours of additional training to hone his game, and truly aspires to be the greatest footballer of all time. Perhaps Ayew is a bad trainer, or lacks the ambition to be a star like some of his colleagues? I do not believe this to be the case. Ayew went into the 2010 World Cup as a fresh faced 20 year old, performed well, and received the plaudits of managing greats such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger. Despite the praise of these professors of the game, Ayew did not show signs of believing his own hype, and his performances only improved over time. Now 5 years older and wiser, the only scandal Ayew has been involved in is the shock surrounding his decision to sign for Swansea City. The player is mature, and ready to enter the defining stages of his career. Attitude is not an issue, and under the guidance of his father, André has developed into a fine player.
The final reason for the Ghanaian not opting to join a European giant lies with the player himself, and the promises given to him by his new club. Many players billed as top talents having made big money moves to sides have seen their careers stagnate due to a lack of game time at their new club. At Swansea, Ayew will be a big fish in a small pond, and if he can replicate the form he showed during his time in France, then it will not be long before the big boys come knocking once more.
At the age of 25, Swansea will be no means be the player’s final club, and he still has his best years to come. It may be argued that this is a fantastic move for the player. Swansea will be Ayew’s first foray into English football, and with a strong side with growing ambitions, Ayew will surely thrive in South Wales. Rather than make the move to an English Champions League side now, why not make the move to a smaller club, test the water, and see whether a life in Britain is what the player desires for his career and (arguably) more importantly, his family. Swansea has awarded the player a signing on bonus in excess of £5 million, a suitable arrangement for both sides. André receives a large lump sum, and the Welsh club acquire an outstanding player for a nominal fee. Perhaps a verbal agreement exists between the two parties in regard to Ayew’s future, and should another side pull out the chequebook for the player, the club will not stand in his way. Swansea will benefit massively from this arrangement, acquiring an arguably world class player for virtually nothing, as well as the tantalising proposition of making the kind of profit they received for Wilfried Bony should Ayew look to move on. A season in England will do the player a world of good, and do not be surprised if in a year’s time, Ayew has signed for another club. Why the player was not signed by a top club this summer remains largely up to debate, and only those in the hot seats will truly be able to explain such an outcome, but be rest assured that all eyes will be on the player during his debut season in the Barclays Premier League.