Being the son of a celebrated footballer is often more of a curse than a blessing for young players coming through the ranks, but Ghana’s Andre Ayew – son of the great Abedi Pele – has emerged from his father’s shadow as one of the most promising young West African players of his generation.
Having begun his career at Nania FC in Accra, it took just two seasons for Ayew – who can play either as a winger or a more conventional forward – to be scouted by French giants Marseille who signed the Ghanaian to their academy just a few months before his sixteenth birthday.
After displaying considerable ability on the left flank for Marseille’s youth teams, Ayew was given his first professional contract aged just seventeen. During the 2007/08 Ligue 1 season Ayew found his opportunities limited, making just a handful of appearances but impressing on his full debut against Porto in the Champions League. Finding his first-team opportunities restricted at the Stade Velodrome, Ayew has recently spent time away from Marseille out on loan at Lorient and Arles-Avignon where he has impressed with his natural creativity.
However, Ayew’s major breakthrough into the public footballing consciousness came in this January’s Africa Cup of Nations. With Ghana’s squad decimated by injuries, Ayew suddenly found himself thrust into the first eleven and didn’t miss out on his chance to showcase his talents. After orchestrating the Black Stars’ offensive efforts and scoring the decisive goal in the group game with Burkina Faso to send his team through to the quarter-finals, Ayew continued to produce displays well above the level many thought he was capable of.
In the absence of Stephen Appiah and Michael Essien, Ayew became Ghana’s main creative force when deployed on the right flank of the 4-4-2 system favoured by Coach Milan Rajevac. In the final against Egypt it was again Ayew who caused the opposition the most problems, cutting inside from his wing to worry Sayed Moawad and Ahmed Fathi on the left of The Pharaoh’s defence. His was certainly not a performance deserving of the 1-0 defeat Ghana ultimately suffered.
Since impressing in Angola there have been reports of Arsenal scouts tracking Ayew’s progress, his intelligent and flamboyant style well-suited to the type of football Arsene Wenger likes his side to play. Capable of playing on either flank or as an auxiliary striker, Ayew is in the same mold as players such as Andrei Arshavin and Samir Nasri, the type of attacking footballer Arsenal’s French manager has tended to favour in the past.
Realistically, it is probably one or two seasons too early for Ayew to be realistically considered for a move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs, but the 20 year-old is improving all the time and, if he has a good World Cup this summer, anything is possible for this wonderfully gifted young Ghanaian.