It was a poignant moment. Asamoah Gyan stood in the Al Ain dressing room and spent a few seconds gazing at the No.3, his favourite number, hanging on the wall. It was to be the last time.
Although one can never be sure, for now though, Gyan was leaving the Home of UAE football for newer pastures. But as the curtains came down on a successful four-year stint in the Garden City, it was finally sinking in for the man.
As Gyan said an emotional goodbye to the club, the Al Ain faithful, who are undoubtedly the best fans in the UAE by a long shot, were saddened by his departure. It was as though they would never see this day when their ?hero? would leave.
?I am lost for words,? Gyan said, trying to hold back the tears.
?This club will always have a special place in my heart no matter what happens in future. Thank you,? said the Ghanian ace after gathering himself.
?I want to really thank the entire Al Ain club and its fans for the support they have me in my time here,? he said as the Al Ain board members presented him with a memento.
?At Al Ain we were able to achieve a lot of things and I tell you this club will remain in my heart forever. It is however time to embrace a new challenge and hopefully this new challenge will be as successful or even better than my time here at Al Ain. I shared so much great memories here. It is time to build new memories,? added the 29-year-old.
Gyan has been part of the Al Ain ?family? and he knows that deep down. The Al Ain faithful, the ?Ainnawis? gave him a rapturous welcome when he first arrived in 2011 on loan from Sunderland. The fans stood by him when he returned after missing a crucial penalty in the 2012 African Cup of Nations semifinal. They have shared his joys and sorrows, his highs and lows.
And the ?Ainnawis? couldn?t hold back their emotions too when it was confirmed that he was indeed leaving. For them, though, Gyan will still remain one of their own, their ?hero.?
?Never thought I?d see the day Gyan leave the Emirates,? one Al Ain fan summed it up when the news had finally filtered in that the ace marksman was heading to join Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG.
Another fan said: ?Thank you Gyan. Thanks for everything you did for us. Wish you all the best in your career. Our legend.?
?Thank you for every minute with us and good luck in your life. We love you,? said another.
Some were stunned by the news with one fan saying: ?Oh God! The news is shocking.? One Middle East football news account on Twitter said: ?An end of a historical period in the AGL.?
They later tweeted: ?A very, very sad moment for the whole of UAE football. The best foreigner in the professional era, no doubt.?
Indeed there have been many top players who have come and gone over the years, but such is the imprint Gyan has left. He has had the performance to boot too ? an astonishing 95 goals in 83 appearances as well as three top scorer awards on the bounce.
Al Ain board member Mohammed bin Bdoua, said: ?We respect Gyan?s desire to leave and take on a new challenge in China. We do not stand in the way of the aspirations of any player, which is in line with the club?s policy. We have had a good relationship and we respect his decision.?
Gyan left Al Ain soon after his farewell and arrived to a rapturous reception as he touched down at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport, on Wednesday afternoon.
?Arrived to a rapturous reception here in Shanghai. Should be a great experience,? he tweeted.
His scheduled medical and unveiling has been postponed to Thursday. At ?227,000 per week, Gyan is set to become the eighth highest paid footballer in the world, which will sandwich him between Manchester United?s Robin van Persie and Sergio Aguero of Manchester City and above FC Barcelona?s Luis Suarez.