Andre Ayew: The popular Swansea star stepping out from behind his famous father’s shadow

Ian Hawkey profiles Swansea City winger Andre Ayew, a player who is fast proving to be the bargain of the summer in an era of inflated transfer fees.

Andre Ayew is proving a popular figure at Swansea City among fans and players alike. Jan Kruger / Getty Images
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What can you get for under £6 million (Dh33.9m) in the current transfer window? Listen to some of the opinions already cast over what will end up being by far highest spending domestic market in the world during this close-season, and perhaps, this year, the answer is that, for less than £6m, you get the best-value newcomer of any to have joined the cast of the Premier League.

Technically, Andre Ayew, who was out of contract at Marseille in June, joined Swansea City on a free transfer. According to reliable sources, his windfall from that set of circumstances was a signing-on fee creeping well over £5.5m.

That Swansea, a club at risk of dropping from the fourth tier of English football just over 12 years ago, are paying such sums is a demonstration of the soaring resources of the Premier League.

That they beat off interest from Champions League clubs such as Roma, Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg for the 25-year-old Ghana international is evidence of something else: The Welsh club offer an attractive ethos for those who can be choosy.

Gary Monk, the Swansea manager who prepares to welcome Manchester United, liked Ayew as soon as they first spoke, noted his genuine, well-researched appreciation of Swansea’s passing style, and has been impressed with the player’s studious approach and interaction with other players during team meetings. Colleagues have cottoned on that conversation with Ayew is easy. He speaks several languages, and is articulate in each of them. His chats in French with striker Bafetembi Gomis, who also came to south Wales from France’s Ligue 1, played a part in his decision to say yes to Monk’s club.

He speaks English just as fluently, although much of his schooling was in France.

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His education, he admits, was fairly privileged. Both his parents were well off financially, although, as he told me once, their backgrounds had been very distinct.

His father … well, there can hardly be any follower of Ayew’s career who does not know his father is Abedi “Pele” Ayew, three times African Footballer of the Year, Champions League winner with Marseille in 1993, among numerous other honours. His mother is Abedi’s second wife, Maha.

“They made sure I was able to be myself,” he said. “I always had two different ways of seeing things. My father had come from really a very poor background. My mother’s was very different. She came from a very ‘good’ family. I wouldn’t say I had everything I wanted as a kid but certainly, we had the most important things and we had parents who advised us, and help us grow up.”

The “us” here are he, his younger brother Jordan, who has just joined Aston Villa, and sister Imani. They were born when Abedi was earning well, playing his club football in Europe – Andre was born in Lille – and he grew up with his multi-lingual education and many options. At the same time, the obvious direction to pursue a career was heavily signposted.

He had inherited some of his father’s poise and athletic balance and even along the more distant boughs of his family tree there was excellent footballer after excellent footballer. His uncles Kwame and Sola were internationals; his half-brother, Ibrahim, would be one of his Ghana teammates at the 2010 World Cup; he and Jordan played together at the 2014 finals in Brazil.

So to ask who were his early role-models is to ask the most obvious question. Yet being the son of an icon, and nephew of a star, carries both privileges and pressures.

“People were always talking about my dad and what he had done and always wanting to see him in you,” he said. “But I’d been taught to expect that, and when I decided to go with trying to make a life in football, I knew that would be waiting for me. I knew I wanted to make my own name in it.”

Andre Ayew is not Abedi, though he resembles him facially, and occasionally, taking off down the wing or issuing a clever pass from a pocket of space in advanced midfield, he seems just like a more muscular, 21st century version of his father.

At times in his career he has seemed almost too determined to be a different sort of player, like the period when he seemed to want to define himself as a deep central midfielder – one the players he admired growing up was the Argentinian who played that role at Real Madrid, Fernando Redondo – though his role at Swansea will be attacking.

For Swansea, Ayew can become many things: versatile; a leader; evidently a goalscorer – he has two already this season – and a scorer of all sorts of different types of goals. What he can be, above all, is his own man.