This week renowned sexist and future benefits claimant Richard “Talksport Killed My Career But It’s Really My Own Fault” Keys announced recently that football had gone ‘mad’. He was referring, in his own, shaven-ape style, to the use of a female assistant in a game between Wolves and Liverpool at Molineux. In the 21st Century most would consider this a decidedly un-‘mad’ aspect of our modern game, especially when so much insanity now permeates the very fabric of modern football. For example, the appointment of a female line runner should pale in comparative mundanity to the purveyor of footballing madness that is luckiest-man-in-the-world Emmanuel Adebayor securing a move to Real Madrid.
But yet, in practice, it hardly raises an eyebrow. Just another twist in the Adebayor’s footballing journey, where controversy trails him like flies buzzing around a particularly large, disobedient and malevolent shit.
This transfer raises several questions. Why would Mourinho see Adebayor to any striking problem at Real Madrid? Why is Adebayor still considered to be capable of playing at this level? Is it indicative of Manchester City’s rise to power that Real Madrid see a place for their cast-off’s in their bid to topple Barcelona? Which player will the boisterous former Togolese striker fall out with first? Can Adebayor exist, even for six months, in the same space as an ego as big as The Special One’s and not cause a rift in the dressing room? Most importantly, will this turn out to be a shrewd piece of business for Mourinho?
There has never been any doubt that Adebayor, 26, is a talented player. 143 appearances for Arsenal saw a return of 62 goals, while 43 appearences at City saw him score 19, not a bad goal ratio for any striker. He has scored at all levels of the game, most notably for Arsenal in the Champions League 2007-08, performances which were integral to the rumours of bids from Barcelona and AC Milan. He won the African player of the year in 2008, the BBC’s African player of the year in 2007 and was Togo’s footballer of the year four consecutive times, from 2005-2008. He is a strong, powerful player who can lead the line well on his own and create play for those around him (displayed more in Arsenal’s long term problem with replacing him than anything else) and as they say, he hasn’t half got a bad touch for a big lad. As we know though, playing football isn’t just about having talent, it’s also about a certain amount of discipline and work ethic, having the desire to benefit the team, the players around you, the manager and the fans. When it comes to this, Adebayor is not exactly a Paul Scholes or Jamie Carragher. He is a Kyle Lafferty. He is an amateur.
It’s not worth going over his petulant outbursts in detail. The fracas at the end of the Carling Cup final against Chelsea in 2007 in which he got sent off , a clash with Nicklas Bendtner, his own team mate, in the same competition the next year. His flirting with AC Milan causing the delay in his contract extension in 2008. It’s not surprising that Arsene Wenger finally decided he was better off shot of him. He was of course proved right by the one man tour de force that Adebayor played out on his return to the Emirates, where he proceeded to kick, stamp and rile his former team mates (most notably Robin Van Persie) before scoring and running the entire length of the pitch in order to upset the Arsenal fans. His celebration was greeted with a shower of abuse and plastic bottles, which is what some may argue exactly what he deserved.
In that game at the Emirates however, Adebayor the footballer shone, only being marginally eclipsed by Adebayor the massive sulk. He scored a goal and generally gave the Arsenal defence a torrid time in a 4-2 win for Manchester City. It will be this Adebayor that Mourinho hopes to unleash on La Liga and the Champions League (because, of course, Adebayor remains eligible), not the one who spits the dummy when things don’t go his way and falls out with fellow professionals on the training ground (as he has reportedly done at Man City a number of times recently).
Adebayor has been signed because Real Madrid have become limited upfront, despite an avalanche of La Liga goals when they aren’t playing Barcelona. Gonzalo Higuain is out for around four months, while word on the street is that Mourinho doesn’t have a hell of a lot of faith in Karim Benzema (hence the still oft-repeated suggestions that he is a target for Sir Alex Ferguson). He will be hoping that Adebayor will form a lynchpin for the likes of Ronaldo, Kaka, di Maria and Scheidt’s Footballing Miscellany favourite Mesut Ozil to operate around.
It’s likely that Mourinho sees him as a Didier Drogba figure and there once was a time when this would have been an immediate comparison to make for many football pundits. Tall, strong African strikers, with incredible technique, a questionable desire and stupid hair, they were once similar players , but while a more mature Drogba has appeared more focused in recent terms (aside from the period directly after Mourinho was sacked from Chelsea), Adebayor needs to prove that he can reign in his more undesirable characteristics and get back to playing the football he is capable of. It’s either reign them in, or Jose may iron them out for him.