If they had such a thing as Careers Masters in Seclin – a small town in the metropolitan area of Lille, north France – ten or so years ago, I wonder how they got on with young Andre Ayew.
‘So, Andre, what do you want to be when you grow up?’
‘Well, my Dad is Abedi Pele – the greatest African footballer of all time and three times winner of the African Footballer of the Year. My uncle Kwame played in France and Portugal and scored 132 career goals while my brothers Ibrahim and Jordan are going to go on to play for Ghana too. I was thinking, oh I don’t know, maybe something in metalwork?’
The poor lad had little choice. If you’ve got those sort of genes you might as well go with them.
On Sunday, Andre Ayew will run out at Anfield and maybe wonder what could have been. He was linked with Liverpool a few times and there were rumours that he even offered to play for us for a few months free of charge in order to earn a contract, but that was at a time when the more scurrilous rumours were flying in and around the city and used as a stick to beat Brendan Rodgers.
If any of that is true it’s certainly a missed opportunity, for me especially. See, I absolutely love Andre Ayew. He’s my favourite non Liverpool player in the league and, to be honest, he even surpasses most of them. I’m an early adopter on this too. None of this ‘seen the new lad at Swansea’ nonsense here. I was there when it mattered, kids, from his early days at Marseille and when he first cut his teeth alongside Asamoah Gyan in the Ghanaian national side. This is like being into a band long before your mates and feeling a bit disappointed when you see them wear their T-shirts years later. If you’re on the Kop on Sunday, I’ll be the one singing ‘Where were you when he was shit. Well, not shit exactly, but less famous’ at a bemused away end. Bloody arrivistes.
As things stand, Ayew has six goals in thirteen games at Swansea, mostly from the right hand side of the three attacking midfielders playing behind a solitary striker in their preferred (and seemingly preferred by everyone) 4-2-3-1 system. That’s more goals than Diego Costa, Wayne Rooney and, and I’m only pointing this out for comparison’s sake, Raheem Sterling. He is Swansea’s top scorer and was the Premier League’s Player of the Month for August. Not bad for a free transfer and his first month playing over here.
I’m furious about that.
He made his name at Marseille, following in his father’s footsteps and was voted their player of the year in 2011. He scored two 90 minute penalties as they won the Trophee des Champions (The French Charity Shield) against Lille. By this point he was already a regular in the Ghana side, although in 2007 he was unsure as to whether to play for Ghana or his native France given his dual citizenship. He elected to play for the Black Stars thus becoming a sort of reverse Marcel Desailly (born in Accra, Ghana). Maybe his Dad had a word.
His international career has been a success. He is currently vice captain and scored against the U.S.A and Germany in the last World Cup (have a look at the finish for the first goal. Outside of the left foot. Lovely). He also hit the post in normal time when Ghana lost on penalties to the Ivory Coast in the final of the African Cup of Nations last season. He was an unused sub when Luis Suarez bravely ended Ghana’s 2010 World Cup campaign with an act of stunning self-sacrifice.
So, if Ayew has ghosted into the Premier League and has outscored most of its celebrated players, how exactly was he allowed to join Swansea on a free transfer? What were the rest of the league thinking?
Arsenal were looking at him a season earlier as he fits their profile – quick, scores, doesn’t defend – but didn’t place a bid. It just seems odd that a man of his talents should choose South Wales as his home. No disrespect to them, obviously, and well played to Garry Monk and his team for snaffling the bargain of the season, but given the money Liverpool have spent and (maybe) wasted on Lazar Markovic and Mario Balotelli, why didn’t we take a punt? There’s little risk in a free transfer and it’s not as if we didn’t need goals in the team, but, no, we looked elsewhere. My one man campaign was fruitless and standing in the Main Stand car park with a ‘Sign Ayew’ placard got me nowhere.
There’s always a chance that he’ll move again before too long if he continues to be a success but it’s still an opportunity lost. Andre Ayew on a free.
Swansea were the surprise package of last season and Monk’s quiet management philosophy drew plaudits from all quarters. They gave us a hell of a time at the Liberty last year and we were lucky to escape with the points when he became the first manager to really get to grips with Brendan’s 3-4-3 formation. Jordan Henderson’s goal was the last before we gave up on the rest of the season as first Van Gaal and then other managers simply followed Monk’s tactics of getting at Emre Can and wing-back Raheem Sterling whenever possible. Of course, they didn’t have it all their own way as we beat them twice at Anfield in a 4-1 win (Adam Lallana’s first good game) and a 2-1 in the League Cup where even Dejan Lovren scored.
There’s plenty of guile in their side with Ayew, Routledge and Sigurdsson playing behind the striker and they’ve managed to make something of the maelstrom of confusion that is Jonjo Shelvey, but it’s the Ghanaian who worries me the most. He’s got the lot – pace, direct and power – and is fearless in his football. He could give Albie Moreno a troublesome afternoon.
Of course, now I’ve said all this he could be bloody awful and substituted at half time.