Why Ghana skipper Asamoah Gyan deserves more recognition
"Sometimes it can take until someone has finished their career to be fully appreciated."
This view was expressed by Michael Carrick earlier this year when he called for Wayne Rooney to be given more respect for his achievements at Manchester United.
He might as well been talking about Asamoah Gyan - a perfect example of a player whose contributions are chronically undervalued.
On Sunday the 31-year-old forward became the first player to score 50 goals for the Black Stars.
Gyan was on target as Ghana began their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign with a 5-0 victory over Ethiopia in Kumasi.
Half-a-century of international goals is a terrific stat in anyone's book and only five Africans have hit that milestone for their countries.
Gyan is now a full member of an exclusive club that includes Zambian legend Godfrey Chitalu, Egyptian great Hossam Hassan, Ivory Coast icon Didier Drogba and Cameroon goal machine Samuel Eto'o.
He is also Africa's all-time top scorer at the Fifa World Cup with six goals.
To put his accomplishments into context, Ghana's most revered footballer Abedi Pele Ayew, who played in five Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, retired from international football with 33 goals in 67 appearances.
At the age of 31 and in the twilight of his career, Gyan remains as indispensable as ever but also bafflingly under-appreciated.
He has long been overlooked in conversations about the continent's best forwards but his ability to hit the back of the net from almost anywhere on the pitch has made life miserable for defenders and goalkeepers over the years.
He has scored a few look-at-me goals but his Black Stars goal portfolio also includes simple tap-ins, headers and free-kicks.
Yet, there are many in Ghana who salivate at any opportunity to pounce on a man who made his international debut in 2003, aged 17, and scored against Somalia.
Throughout his career, Gyan has never been far from criticism and abuse from his own fans and, incredibly, some of his critics claim that missed penalties at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa a nd the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations damaged his legacy beyond repair.
When Gyan left English Premier League side Sunderland for a lucrative deal with Abu Dhabi's Al Ain in 2012, he was pilloried for "taking the easy option" and some predicted the end of his career.
Now playing for Al-Ahli Dubai FC, Gyan has proved the doubters wrong by showing the kind of consistency in front of goal that most could only dream of.
He has been nothing short of prolific for the four-time African champions and deserves much more respect than people give him.
It is often the case with most underrated players that one does not realise just how important they are until they are gone.
Enjoy watching Asamoah Gyan while you can.
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