The man to fire Sunderland into Europe?

Sunderland have shown that they are serious about making an assault on the European places by completing a record deal for Ghanaian international striker Asamoah Gyan. The £13 million signing from Ligue 1 side Rennes was one of the stand-out performers in this summer’s World Cup as he led the Black Stars to a quarter-final tie against Uruguay which they lost in heartbreaking fashion.

Gyan’s eye-catching displays in South Africa will have left Sunderland fans relishing the prospect of seeing the Ghanaian form a deadly partnership with England striker Darren Bent. Like Bent, Gyan has an eye for foal. He scored in Ghana’s opening group fixtures against Serbia and Australia as well as an extra-time winner against the USA in their second round match-up. What was most impressive about Gyan’s performances in the World Cup is that he isn’t just a goalscorer. He was the focal-point of much of Ghana’s attacks. His mere presence in the team seemed to inspire confidence in the players as he could produce something out of nothing. And so it proved against the USA. He latched on to hopeful long ball from Kevin Prince Boateng, held off the challenge from defender Carlos Bocanegra and lashed a left-footed volley past Tim Howard in the USA goal.

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has said he had been tracking Gyan for more than two years so he must have been familiar with Gyan’s ability prior to the World Cup. He started his career at Liberty Professionals in Accra who are famous for producing some of the nation’s top talent including Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and John Pantsil. Gyan’s potential was spotted early on by Serie A club Udinese who snapped up the 17 year old in 2003. Gyan’s move to Italy resulted in him being called up for the national side and he became his country’s youngest goalscorer at 17 when he scored for the Black Stars in a World Cup qualifier against Somalia in November 2003.

Gyan was loaned to Serie B outfit Modena for two years to gain some first-team experience and he scored 15 goals in 53 appearances for the club. After his two year stint in Modena, Gyan was ready for first-team action with Udinese and the Ghanaian forged a good understanding with Italian forward Fabio Quagliarella. While not as prolific as Quagliarella, Gyan contributed 10 goals in the 2006-2007 season to help Udinese finish 10th in Serie A. Despite sealing a long-term contract with the club, Gyan found himself frozen out at the club after his 2007-2008 campaign was plagued by injury and he was sold to Rennes for €8 million in the summer of 2008.

Last season at Rennes was Gyan’s most successful club season to date, with the forward scoring 13 goals in 27 appearances as Rennes finished 9th in the Ligue 1 standings.

When you look at the number of goals Gyan has got in his club career (50 goals in 156 appearances for 4 different clubs), it doesn’t seem all that impressive but once you start to analyse at his game, you start to realise his importance to the team is much more than his goals. He is a highly unselfish player who works hard for the team. He brings a subtlety of movement that will open up space for other attackers. This would be ideal for a player like Bent at Sunderland as he would thrive in the space that Gyan would create and get more shots in on goal.

With the signing of Gyan, Sunderland may possess one of the most explosive attacking duos in the Premier League. Gyan needs time to adapt to the pace and power of the Premier League but I doubt it would take him long. His signing for £13 million does represent a gamble on the part of manager Steve Bruce but I believe it is a gamble worth taking as Gyan has all the necessary tools to help Sunderland become a contender for a European spot in the not too distant future.

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