x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Transfer window does not always reflect right money and class picture

Money talks, as lucrative deals that saw Samuel Eto'o and Asamoah Gyan swap Italy and England for riches of Russia and UAE prove.

Some reports say Asamoah Gyan will earn up to Dh18 million from his season-long loan deal to link up with Al Ain from the English club Sunderland.
Some reports say Asamoah Gyan will earn up to Dh18 million from his season-long loan deal to link up with Al Ain from the English club Sunderland.

"I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody."

For their sake, here's hoping Samuel Eto'o and Asamoah Gyan don't soon find themselves repeating the words immortalised by Marlon Brando in the 1954 classic film On the Waterfront.

It is accepted wisdom that Africa's top two footballers of 2010 have signed for Anzhi Makhachkala, from Russia, and Al Ain, respectively, for money. But it's not the whole story.

In winning almost everything there is to win in football except for the World Cup, Eto'o has already become a very wealthy man. How wealthy? Well, Usain Bolt said that when he met Eto'o and took a liking to his US$48,000 (Dh175,300) diamond-studded luxury watch, the four-time African Footballer of the Year simply took it off and handed it over to the stunned sprint star with the words, "You can have it."

Maybe Eto'o has pulled that expensive party trick so often that he really does need the $13 million per season Anzhi Makhachkala say they will pay him. Besides, who in football wouldn't be tempted by such a big paycheck?

And perhaps, as he suggests, Eto'o could no longer be sure that Inter Milan, his previous club with which he won the European Champions League and the Fifa Club World Cup, in Abu Dhabi, in 2010, would be strong enough to compete again with Europe's best this season.

If so, Eto'o must have a crystal ball. The Italian club lost 1-0 on Wednesday to Trabzonspor, a Turkish side making their Champions League debut. Perhaps Eto'o has made a timely getaway.

And, unlike Brando's character in On the Waterfront, Eto'o already is "somebody". During five glorious years at Barcelona and then at Inter, he proved his class on the field. He can afford obscurity now because he knows that when he retires he will not be forgotten.

Eto'o says he could have moved elsewhere but was attracted by Anzhi's "crazy dream" and the prospect of new experiences. Those, of course, are the sort of things money-grabbing footballers often say rather than just admit the truth. But, again, since Eto'o was hardly poor and has already achieved so much in football, perhaps there is more to his move than just money.

"We want to aim very high and we have a president with the means, perhaps, to back up his thinking," Eto'o says in a video on his website. "I want to follow this project from A to Z."

Like Eto'o, Gyan also spoke about the need for "a change in environment" to explain his curious move from England's Premier League to the UAE.

Again, money seems to have been a major factor. The word around his former club, Sunderland, is he roughly quadrupled his weekly wage by signing on a season-long loan with Al Ain. Some put the value of his 12-month deal at £3.1m (Dh18m).

Unlike Eto'o, Gyan isn't yet a household name. He was a star of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, scoring three goals and sparking Sunderland to pay a club-record £13m for him.

Now, they are playing the role of victim in his departure. Steve Bruce, the manager, said agents - "parasites," he called them - poured poison in the striker's ear by talking to him of possible moves away and filled his head "full of nonsense".

The club described Gyan as unhappy at training. Sunderland, of course, could simply have told Gyan that he could not leave and should get on with his job of scoring goals.

Instead, they pocketed the reported £4.8m that Al Ain offered to borrow him.

At 25, Gyan is the same age as Wayne Rooney - too young to be joining the ranks of older footballers, such as Fabio Cannavaro, who move to the Gulf for large sums of money in the twilight of their careers. Cannavaro may have earned as much as Dh22.5 million playing for the Dubai club Al Ahli last season.

Al Ain's home games drew 54,452 spectators in total over the whole of last season - 20,000 fewer people than Gyan entertained when Sunderland lost 2-0 at Manchester United last December.

Money and class. In football, not everyone can have both.