I had a great day yesterday. I had some friends over, we cooked up a mess of chicken on the grill, and we sat in the living room with the fan on watching television and trying to escape an oppressive Washington heatwave. After the morning blog(s) I didn’t turn the computer on all day. A day of sweet bliss away from the news stories, the football sagas, the constant work emails. Ahhhh…
So, I woke up this morning, ready to do my preview of the Euro 2008 final and have a bit of a kick around myself, and I found that Emmanuel Adebayor was all over my computer. Like a case of herpes, I keep putting him down, only to have him pop up again at the most inopportune times. It’s official: Arsenal have Adebayor Simplex 2 and I think it’s a terminal case.
Yesterday, Adebayor gave yet another interview — this one an exclusive to the second least trustworthy news source on the planet News of the World — in which he contradicted himself and/or his agent for the third time in the span of two days. Friday: “I’m staying at Arsenal, you will see me in an Arsenal shirt next season, oh yeah, I don’t play football for the money.” One hour later: “I have to meet with Arsene Wenger and sort a few things out but I love Arsenal and love playing with this group of guys, and there’s more to life than money!” Yesterday: “Did I mention that I’m as good as Thierry Henry and that I deserve to be paid £120,000 a week and oh yeah, I want to go to Barcelona? Umm, yeah, all that stuff, plus I have to think of my retirement and stuff. Money money money, I’m worth it! Money.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I want to reiterate that I have supported Adebayor in the face of a great deal of fan opposition and so I am biased here. As I mowed the lawn yesterday I was listening to the the official Arsenal O2 podcast and they reminded me that not only does Ade add the aerial threat to the team that they lacked for so long but the way he makes runs and his ability to hold the ball up for his teammates creates space for the midfielders, like Hleb and Cesc, to work their magic. There are a lot of fans who think “sell him and we can get David Villa (or Santa Cruz, etc etc.), it doesn’t matter who we have up front!” Those fans are very wrong. It does matter, having Adebayor on the team matters.
I also sympathize deeply with a man who came from some of the deepest poverty in Africa. The temptation of a huge contract in the face of a career that might last 10 years would be overwhelming for even a man raised in wealth and luxury. It must be even more difficult for a man for who stated that if he hadn’t had a career in football he’d have had a career as a gangster. £6m a year means that he, his family, and probably all of his extended family will have to want for nothing ever again. Frankly, giving all of these contradictory interviews has convinced me that he is acting like a man torn by his love for football and Arsenal and a sort of primal desire to never want again. So, for all the people calling him greedy, walk a mile in the shoes of his childhood: they were dilapidated, the roads were sand, and all around he was surrounded by death and destruction. Now tell me that you wouldn’t be tempted by an offer from Barcelona? Liar.
So that we’re clear, I’m biased in favor of Adebayor. I know that I’ll be accused of pandering to him with the above sympathetic plea so let me get this out of the way: I like him but I don’t think he’s a Theirry Henry type of player. He’s damn close, but not quite there. His stats are spot on (for one season); the number of goals, the goals per shot ratio, etc. all match the greats like Henry and Wright. The main difference is that players like Henry have the unique ability to put a struggling team on their back and carry them. Henry did it most famously at the Bernabeau during Arsenal’s Champions League runners up campaign, or that time against Spurs, or… you get the point. Walcott has already shown sparks of that type of greatness such as with the run against Liverpool this year but Adebayor doesn’t really do that type of thing; he’s a great role player but we all know that it’s Fabregas who is shaping up to be this “sparkle” player at Arsenal.
Adebayor is no Thierry Henry so why then does he feel like he deserves Henry type money? The sudden reversal of Friday and Saturday have his agent’s fingerprints all over it. One day you say that you don’t play football for the money and the next you think you deserve to be paid the same as an Arsenal legend while claiming to have a substantial offer from Barcelona? That smacks of the player telling us his true feelings and then his agent taking him aside and saying “oh, erm, Ade, Barcelona just called and they say that they want to pay you £100,000 a week, maybe you should soften your statements a bit, whattya think?”
The worst pat of all this is that I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with nothing at the end of his career like Eric Djemba-Djemba. His agent, Barcelona, and everyone who stands to gain here are taking advantage of this guy’s weaknesses. They are playing on his childhood poverty to engineer a move to anywhere that will garner them a fat kickback. Once you let leeches like this into your life, they will drain you and you won’t even notice it until one day you’re playing football in Qatar for peanuts.
I have a bad feeling that Adebayor’s story will end the same way.
For now, I have to wonder how this is going to play out over the next few days. Arsenal replied to Adebayor’s Friday conference with a strong stance and Wenger publicly stated:
He (Adebayor) is under contract. That’s quite simple. I’m not worried. I can tell you as manager of Arsenal Football Club I am not worried.
Asked if he needed to meet with the player to clarify Adebayor’s ambitions he said
No. I met him already, on Friday before his press conference
So, he met with him before the conference in which Adebayor promised his future to the club. Wenger must have been reassured by the player at that meeting, because as we know Wenger doesn’t try to keep players who don’t want to leave. Arsene also made a bold statement about making bold statements, when he challenged United to stay strong in the Ronaldo case
United have been strong and I give them credit for that, but maybe they know as well that the desire to leave doesn’t really come from the player. It could be from another environment, from a club that’s tapped him up. It is not right and there comes a point where someone has to make a stand
Someone has to take a stand? Is it going to be Arsenal? No. The chances of that are pretty much gone as of yesterday, because Arsenal’s Togo International then switched his story and he gave a definitive answer to Arsenal in an interview to News of the World (linked above) in which he dropped the Barcelona bomb.
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.
And there you have it. He wants to stay but Arsenal aren’t going to pay him the money that his agent has convinced him he’s worth. I’m alarmed that he’s publicly admitting that Barcelona have illegally negotiated a contract with a player who Arsenal have repeatedly stated is not for sale. He’s either tremendously stupid or tremendously confident that what’s happened isn’t illegal. I’m also saddened that he both lied to Wenger on Friday and that he’s now threatening Arsenal.
Threats, cheating, lying… that’s the fast track to end a career of someone who could have been an Arsenal great. Instead of being written into the Arsenal history books, if he leaves, he’ll go down as yet another player that left the club on bad terms. His great goals will fade and people will remember him as just another Anelka, Cole, Campbell, or that other guy who I used to like but he bogged back off to Spain because he didn’t like the weather. I forget his name.