SUNDERLAND have denied that striker Asamoah Gyan was offered to Marseille in the last half-hour of Wednesday’s transfer window.
The Black Cats will not comment publicly on the claims, made by the French club’s striker André-Pierre Gignac and sporting director José Anigo, who both say the 25-year-old would have been part of a swap deal.
But sources close to the club are adamant the suggestions are untrue.
Much to his – and the Wearsiders’ – annoyance, club record signing Gyan has been the subject of much conjecture this week, with rumours he submitted a transfer request after failing to persuade the club to increase his pay.
Clearly worried about being seen as a mercenary by the Wearside supporters, the Ghanaian has been quick to deny the speculation, only for Gignac to add further fuel to the fire.
“These rumours have disturbed me to be honest,” said Gyan. “I do not want Sunderland fans to think I am not happy in Sunderland.
“I am happy with Steve Bruce, who invested so much money in me, and I will need to repay his faith.”
The rumours are badly timed for Gyan, who is yet to find the net this season, and whose body language in that time has not always been satisfactory.
The £13m man has persistently been linked with moves away from the Stadium of Light, a situation he did not help when speaking openly about how much he would one day love to play for Manchester United at the launch of his new charity on Monday.
“Honestly, that is what I have always wanted since I am a Man U fan,” he said when his country’s former sports minister ET Mensah broached the subject.
France international Gignac had a medical at Fulham on deadline day, only for the move to fall through because of Marseille’s inability to find a suitable replacement in time. That, he claims, is when Sunderland got in touch – although he says he never spoke to the club. Black Cats boss Bruce went into the final few days of transfer activity for 2011 hoping to sign two forwards – one on loan, the other permanently. They failed to strike a deal for Wolfsburg’s Patrick Helmes, and missed out on former Newcastle United player Craig Bellamy, who opted to return to Liverpool from Manchester City.
In the end, they had to settle for Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner on a season-long loan.
According to Gignac, he only became an option late on Wednesday evening. “On Wednesday we had a medical (at Fulham),” he said in an interview in French daily sports paper l’Équipe. “It was a wonderful welcome. So on Wednesday it was all okay. Fulham agreed (a fee) with l’OM.
“At 11:30pm (French time, half an hour before the deadline) they called me to say I have to go back to Marseille because my forward replacement would not come! I was in London so called to help l’OM sign a forward, but it could not be resolved.
“Three minutes after calling me to come back to Marseille, I was called again as there was an opportunity to go to Sunderland. I could not reply yes to Sunderland and no to Fulham, because l’OM just made the decision of a swap deal with Gyan..”
Anigo claimed Gignac’s reluctance stopped a deal going ahead.
Sunderland’s inability to convert chances into goals has been the feature of their early-season form. Sebastian Larsson has been the only Black Cats players to score in four matches, although Gyan was on target for Ghana last night in their 2-0 African Cup of Nations qualifying win over Swaziland in Accra and Ji Dong-Won scored twice for South Korea in a 6-0 win over Lebanon.
Meanwhile, John O’Shea says it was “time for a change” after joining from Manchester United this summer.
“I wouldn’t say it was a wrench, it was just one of those things,” said the defender. “It was definitely a change because I had been at United for so long. Since I was 17, I was there. But it was 13 years and time for a change.”