Monday, July 27, 2009

One Greedy Bastard


"True Blue ?"

“… there’s only one greedy bastard”.

Unfortunately, this chant rings no truer in modern football than Spurs fans singing, “We’re by far the greatest team the world has ever seen”. However, the recent transfer of Emmanuel Adebayor to Manchester City, where he will reportedly be paid £170,000 a week (double what he was “earning” at Arsenal) surely takes the cake.

Last summer, Arsenal rewarded Adebayor for scoring 30 goals by doubling his salary. This season, Adebayor scored only 16 goals, but City have decided to reward him for being 50% as prolific by once again doubling his wages. In effect, he is being twice as well compensated for being half as good.

Initially, Greedy-bayor claimed that the move was not about money, but somewhat ruined his argument when he proceeded to clarify his motives:

I know a lot of people will be saying, ‘He went for the money’. But I would like to hear any man, if he is honest, say he would refuse it, if he was earning £10 and someone offered him £30.

Fair enough, it’s quite obvious to everyone that the man is motivated only by money, even though at the beginning of the year he launched his own war on wealth:

Money is killing the spirit of the game. I don’t want to mention a name here, but good players are made to be in a great team. Money is killing football because some people are making the decision because of money.

This heart-felt lament was a comment on Robinho’s transfer from Real Madrid to, er, Manchester City.

"City Slicker"

We shouldn’t be too surprised at Adebayor’s eagerness to embrace the oil money being flushed through the streets of Manchester. After all, this is the man who told us how he had to prepare for his retirement at the age of 24. This was a clear reference to his focus on money, though Arsenal fans could be forgiven for thinking he meant it literally, given his lackadaisical “efforts” last year.

The fans’ reaction to the sale of Adebayor is telling. No £25 million striker has ever been sent on his way with such a wave of indifference. The main concern among the club’s supporters was not that the deal might be completed, but that it might collapse. The prevailing feeling among the fans is “good riddance”. Hardly surprising, given that Adebayor blasted them for not giving him enough support, somehow comparing himself to Cesc. Well, the reason that the fans never turned on Cesc is because he never acted like Adebayor.

We understood perfectly how he had behaved: spending all last summer trying to move away from Arsenal, then engineering a massive pay rise and showing a frightening lack of self-awareness by kissing the badge after scoring a penalty in a meaningless pre-season friendly. To encourage his departure, Arsenal fans even produced a tongue-in-cheek “Michael Owen” brochure to attract buyers, describing him as “better than Marlon Harewood and Mido put together”.

"Kiss me where the sun don't shine"

Arsene Wenger also has a superb record in knowing when to cash in on his playing assets (Overmars, Petit, Vieira, etc). The reality is that Adebayor went to City, because he had no other options. No Champions League side wanted him – or would match what Wenger was paying him. No offers from Barcelona or big-spending Real Madrid. Even Milan with all the money from the Kaka deal and their obvious need for a new striker kept their cheque book firmly closed. So, it had to be the rich man’s plaything. Even then, Adebayor hardly endeared himself to his new fans by desperately touting himself to Manchester United and Chelsea at the last minute.

Adebayor has plenty of form with his numerous previous flirtations with Barcelona and Milan. Who could forget the day last summer when he gave one interview stating that he wanted to stay at Arsenal, only to change his stance moments later on another channel, when he welcomed interest from other clubs:

Barcelona have made a good financial offer and there is also the chance to play alongside great players. Yes, I am still under contract to Arsenal but it's up to the directors to satisfy my demands or I'll leave.

This was followed by an article in El Mundo, when he gushed about how he’d love to play with Thierry Henry again, featuring a photo of him holding a copy of the newspaper grinning like a wanking Japanese.

His overtures to Milan have been no less subtle. On the day of a crucial Champions League tie, he decided to rally the troops by dropping heavy hints of a transfer to Milan, bizarrely comparing the club to the bootylicious Beyonce, thus making Arsenal out to be the Susan Boyle of football. Adebayor also explained that he often speaks with Milan vice-president, Adriano Galliani, on the phone, because “he is very good at French, as his wife is from Morocco”. Alles klar. This is the man who had previously made the ludicrous claim that he’d had his phone off all summer, so had no idea about any transfer shenanigans.

"Greed is Good"

The chances are that Arsenal will actually be a stronger unit without Adebayor. The return of Eduardo from his long injury will be like signing a new player, while Adebayor’s exit may allow Arshavin to play in his preferred role behind the main striker. The emerging talents of Nicklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela should also be given opportunities to establish themselves at the Emirates. The £25 million injection into the transfer fund could be used to buy the defensive midfielder and central defender that the team so palpably needs.

Either way, it became clear towards the end of the season that Adebayor had been dropped from the last few games in order to protect the “asset”. Even though a diplomatic injury was the explanation, it is more likely that Wenger had decided to call time on Adebayor’s Arsenal career, because of his heavy first touch, unprofessional attitude and inconsistent performances. Even though Adebayor could still score the occasional spectacular goal, like the scissors kick against Villareal, those moments were few and far between.

In his first season, he ran the channels, chased loose balls and made things happen. Although he was a clumsy player, often missing easy chances, there was never a question about his application. However, this season he has strolled around, hard work apparently beneath him, with an on-pitch demeanour that makes Dimitar Berbatov look like Usain Bolt on speed. Speaking about Adebayor’s possible sale, Ray Parlour said:

He was too lazy at times last season and just didn’t do it. His body language wasn’t great. His attitude amazed me at times last season when he just didn’t put it in.

The Romford Pele hit the nail on the head. The best way for Adebayor to win the fans back after last summer’s nonsense was to work hard and score goals. Instead, his lazy performances have seen supporters grow weary of him.

But is Adebayor actually any good? Yes, he did score 30 goals in 2007-8, but that was a vibrant Arsenal side that made about 150 chances for him. The midfield trio of Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb combined beautifully to put everything on a plate. And 6 of his goals came against Derby County, statistically the worst team in Premier League history. Ade-barndoor is a big, clumsy battering ram of a forward, who plays in a brainless style. His lack of footballing intelligence is most clearly seen by being continually caught offside, but is also evidenced by his inability to anticipate a cross, short pass or a rebound. He is frequently on his heels, not his toes, at the crucial moment of an attacking move, so the ball often gets away from him. When he actually reaches it, he will more likely than not scuff his shot. He is six foot four, but cannot really head the ball. In all, he is just a poor man’s Didier Drogba.

"Caricature of a Player"

This has not prevented delusions of grandeur. He compared himself to Thierry Henry, who scored goals year after year for Arsenal and is one of the greatest players the Premiership has ever seen. Adebayor was a bit-part player for Monaco before Wenger rescued him, but he can at best only be described as a one-season wonder for Arsenal. Adebayor, of course, sees things differently, boasting that Arsenal have helped him “become one of the great players in world football”. Really? Would anyone swap him for Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka or Fernando Torres? Thought not.

He is also the classic flat-track bully, a big game bottler. When Wenger needed him most against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, Adebayor simply disappeared. His displays in the Champions League semi-finals against United were offensively bad. Not only did he gift John O’Shea (!) the opening goal of the tie by casually vacating a space when defending a corner, but quite unforgivably he implied in a post-match interview that he could not be expected to do much when playing against Vidic and Ferdinand. Words fail me.

It comes down to a question of character. Adebayor has a powerful physique and should be a real handful for opposition defences, but he doesn’t have the right attitude to compete, like a Wayne Rooney or even a Carlos Tevez. His arrogance and ego will not be missed by the dressing room, especially Nicklas Bendtner, whom he butted during a Carling Cup semi-final in a rare moment of physical exertion.

"Smells like Team Spirit"

Apparently one of the reasons behind Adebayor’s decision to join the City revolution was Arsenal’s failure to win any silverware since the FA Cup victory in 2005. Leaving aside the obvious rejoinder that the club’s recent lack of trophies is just possibly down to the players, including the mis-firing striker, have I somehow missed all those trophies won by Manchester City? Do me a favour. The sheer unwillingness to accept any responsibility highlights his lack of character.

One area where Adebayor’s work rate cannot be questioned is his big mouth. He seemed to have appointed himself as some sort of imbecilic spokesman for the club. In an interview with the appalling Garth Crooks on BBC’s Football Focus, he claimed that the club had gone backwards and blamed the fans’ lack of support for his drop in form. Earlier in he season, he had defended William Gallas’s outburst that split the dressing room: “If he had said nothing, where would we be today?”, conveniently over-looking the subsequent defeats to Manchester City, Burnley and Porto. Fortunately, he talks so fast that it’s hard to understand much of what he’s saying.

His swelling ego can also be found off the pitch. He decorated his car by embroidering his name and squad number into each of the seats, which is a crime against good taste. Even more offensive was his behaviour when visiting sick children at a local hospital along with other Arsenal players, when he had his iPod earphones in for all the pictures.

Despite winning African Footballer of the Year in 2008, Adebayor has enjoyed a fractious relationship with the Togo football federation. He has refused to play in international matches on several occasions: first, when he was made substitute; then, in a wholly unsurprising row over bonus payments; and, most strangely, because the president did not travel to matches. Little wonder that the coach described Adebayor as a “cry baby, who thinks he’s a superstar”.

Emmanuel Adebayor represents the archetypal modern footballer. Flash, brash and driven by cash, he is an out of control egomaniac who only flatters to deceive. City are welcome to the useless waster.

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