Superstar striker Asamoah Gyan has bitten back at the Al Ahli supporters when quizzed about his troubled loan spell, provocatively stating: “I think a lot of people do not understand the game”.
Gyan, 31, has continued to struggle for form and fitness during a season-long secondment from China’s Shanghai SIPG. He broke his duck at the fifth time of asking in the 2017 AFC Champions League with a chip during Tuesday’s 4-0 thrashing of Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv Tashkent which saw the Red Knights cruise into the round of 16, but this was just a ninth effort in 22 run-outs.
This stark decline from a legendary spell at Al Ain from 2011-15, which included 95 goals in 83 Arabian Gulf League games, has led to plentiful and biting criticism.
“I think a lot of people do not understand the game,” said the Ghana skipper when quizzed about his strained relationship with the fans at Rashid Stadium. “That is what I feel, they don’t understand the game.
“People don’t feel my situation, they feel about what they see. They feel about themselves, they don’t feel for me – the player.
“All the season, because I’ve not been consistent. You cannot expect a player to be 100 per cent when he goes on and off, on and off.
“They know what I can do when I was playing consistently. I am here to prove to everybody I am still who I am, the right moment will come.
“All I need is consistency. But for me, the people here have not treated me fairly – that is what I can say.”
When asked specifically about who had treated him unfairly, Gyan replied: “The fans, the people here – that is what I can say.
“Sometimes I feel disappointed. But I always say that you can judge me when I am playing every game.
“You cannot judge me when I have injury. They expect me to perform like I used to, that is what I can say.”
These comments could see Gyan gain a heated reception on Saturday when the dethroned champions wind up their AGL commitments at home to relegated Bani Yas.
From their previous 25 top-flight dates, the ex-Sunderland and Udinese centre forward has only started eight and been substituted on five times. He has scored on five occasions and completed the full match twice.
Repeat injuries have curbed his involvement, as well as the predatory form of UAE forward Ahmed Khalil and January buy Makhete Diop. Gyan is likely to be a free agent this summer, with SIPG loathe to exorcise an option on his two-year deal signed in July 2015.
“Now I have a lot of options,” he said.
“I do not want to mention names, but there is a lot on the table. I will decide at the end of the season.”
If this was Al Ahli in “not the best situation”, as boss Cosmin Olaroiu bemoaned pre-match, the rest of the 2017 AFC Champions League should beware.
The Red Knights transcended a striking crisis, internal tumult and recent domestic acquiescence to power into the competition’s round of 16 for just the second time.
Fuelled by irrepressible Brazil playmaker Everton Ribeiro, who conjured a goal to savour as he playfully chipped over helpless and hapless goalkeeper Mamur Ikromov before he volleyed home, they ran rampant against overawed Uzbek League leaders Lokomotiv Tashkent to seal top spot in Group A and avoid a showdown with bitter rivals Al Ain.
“If you ask me I prefer against Al Ain, but this would not be good for Emirates because one of the teams would go out,” said Olaroiu, whose charges will now battle Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli Jeddah over two legs later this month.
“I hope we’re going (to) have the chance to play against them in the semi-final and for sure, one team would be in the final.”
Faded Ghana superstar Asamoah Gyan’s delightful dinked finish topped off a rejuvenated display in the absences of Ahmed Khalil and Makhete Diop.
Dynamic UAE winger Ismail Al Hammadi was denied a stunning effort of his own when a low, 20-yard drive struck the post and rebounded in off Ikromov’s back.
Cherished nights like this have become rarer for the dethroned Arabian Gulf League holders. Others must be produced to prevail against Christian Gross’ men, who also relinquished their local league title this term.
Ahli instantly took command of a game in which just a draw was enough to guarantee progression against opponents with slim hopes. Centre-back Salmeen Khamis headed into an open goal early on to settle nerves, before three more followed in the second half.
Al Hammadi was unfortunate not to chalk one up for himself, while Gyan – for his first in five ACL games this term – and Ribeiro finished with aplomb after racing clear.
The mood at Rashid Stadium was arguably more inauspicious two years ago.
From that low point, they raced to a narrow defeat in the final. Could the scenario repeat?
Recently-dismissed Argentina boss Edgardo Bauza is determined to close on Asia’s football heavyweights after he travelled to Dubai on Tuesday in order to seal a two-year deal as the UAE’s next coach.
Bauza, 59, departed from his native country after terms were agreed to succeed Mahdi Ali and reignite the Whites’ faltering bid for a second-ever World Cup qualification. This marks an instant return to work after he was sacked last month after just eight miserable matches in charge of La Albiceleste.
Speaking to reporters outside Ministro Pistarini International Airport in Buenos Aires, El Paton targeted advancements towards Group B-opponents Japan and Australia on the Road to Russia.
“I know the soccer of that area because I worked four months in Arabia [at Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr in 2009],” he told ESPN Argentina. “It’s not the Emirates but I know the nature of the players from there.
“I’m traveling to close on details of the contract and to see the work conditions. There is a game in 25 days [in Thailand on June 13].
“We have to know the team and get it ready. I saw some videos but I need to know it more.
“The goal is to be close to Japan and Australia, the two big teams in that area.”
Bauza – who won three caps and travelled to World Cup 1990 as a player – has concurred on an outline agreement which expires immediately after the 2019 Asian Cup, which is to be held in the Emirates. The highlights of his managerial career have been winning the Copa Libertadores with Ecuador’s LDU Quito in 2008 and Argentina’s San Lorenzo in 2014.
The UAE are fourth with three games left in the third-and-final round of qualifying for World Cup 2018, one place and four points outside the advancement spots in Group B.
After the match in Bangkok versus already-eliminated opponents, they host Bert van Marwijk’s high-flying Saudi Arabia on August 31 and finish off against Iraq on September 5. They will likely need to take all nine points to stand any chance of success.