Andre Ayew has scored at World Cups, Africa Cups of Nations and in the Champions League, is the son of an African footballing legend, and came of age in the melting pot city of Marseille – but he can be a man of few words.
Or, at least, a man of few topics – too modest, or perhaps, too focussed to divulge must of his past, according to his head coach at Swansea City, Steve Cooper.
“Freddie Woodman sits down next to Andre every day for food at the training ground,” says Cooper.
“Despite what Andre has done in his life, Freddie reckons Andre has only ever talked about two subjects – the last game and the next game. That gives an idea of how single-minded and dedicated he is.”
It was that ability to focus on just one thing that drove Ayew to give the Swans the priceless one goal lead they will take to Brentford this evening for the second-leg of their Championship play-off semi-final.
The son of Abedi Ayew – renowned in the football world as Abedi Pele – a pioneer of African football in Europe and regarded by many football experts as the greatest African footballer of all time, scored a stunning goal last Sunday.
It was the only one of the game and came just a few minutes after Ayew had missed a penalty – his first failure of the season.
Not many players respond to that kind of blow by ripping a spectacular shot past the same goalkeeper who has earlier denied them, but Cooper says Ayew’s contribution to this season has confounded the expectations of many.
The Ghana striker – who might have left Swansea last summer after a season on loan at Turkish club Fenerbahce – will step up should the visitors get a penalty in west London.
“He’s our penalty taker. There’s no reason to change,” Cooper says of 18-goal Ayew.
“He’s our big player. He’s played in World Cups and the Champions League and he’s in complete control of what he does.
“I thought he was as good as anybody on the pitch anyway before it [penalty miss] and he stepped up even more after it.
“He came in late last summer because of the Africa Cup of Nations but we hit it off straight away and he’s been brilliant.
“We’ve never had a conversation about him going elsewhere. I’m sure he had opportunities and offers, but I’ve never had to persuade him to stay.”
Born in France to Ghanaian parents, Ayew began his career in Ghana, playing for Nania, where he made his debut at the frighteningly tender age of 14.
In 2005, he signed with his father’s former club Marseille, and spent two seasons in the famous club’s youth academy before making his senior debut during the 2007-08 season.
After loan spells with Lorient and Aries-Avignon, Ayew became an integral part of the Marseille first-team, and remained a key component for several years up until his transfer to Swansea five years ago.
He left in 2016 in a £20.5m move to West Ham, before returning to Swansea for £18m two years later.
After last year’s loaned season in Turkey, it was expected he wouldn’t be around to see much action in the current campaign, but that is not how it has worked out. Far from being peripheral, Ayew has been at the core of everything good about his team this season.
“He’s never behaved like he wanted to go, the opposite in fact. It’s been great to see a guy with his experience and ability operate as he has,” adds Cooper.
The coach has warned his team about the dangers of sitting on a lead ahead of their return at Brentford.
Ayew’s brilliant first-leg strike secured the Swans a 1-0 advantage heading into the rematch at Griffin Park – the final competitive game to be played at the 116-year-old stadium.
However, former England youth boss Cooper has no intention of playing for a draw as he attempts to end his first season of management in senior football by steering Swansea to the Sky Bet Championship play-off final at Wembley.
“We are going to treat the game as if it’s 0-0,” Cooper said. “I think it’s a dangerous game if you don’t do that.
“Of course a draw would be good, but we won’t be playing for it. I don’t know how you do that. It’s not in our mentality to sit back.
“At times you have to manage games and sit back and see things out.
“That’s part and parcel of football and getting over the line, but that’s not the way we want to go.”
Sixth-placed Swansea finished three places and 11 points below Brentford in the Championship standings.
But the form guide is in Swansea’s favour after a dramatic end to the season saw them claim the final play-off spot and Brentford miss out on automatic promotion.
Swansea have won their last three games, while the Bees have lost their last three.
“Brentford are obviously a good team and you can’t take anything for granted,” Cooper said.
“But we’re focusing on ourselves rather than who we come up against, and we’re in a really good place playing exciting football.
“I said before we’re the afterthought of the four teams, but we’re okay with that and believe in what we’re doing.”