It’s the 71st minute and Tottenham are leading Derby 4-0 at White Hart Lane, Spurs have just replaced Wayne Routledge with unknown youngster Adel Taarabt - cue the most confident home debut in the history of football.
If you haven’t seen Taarabt’s cameo in that game, go to Youtube and watch it; it’s the video which embodies him entirely. In about 12 to 13 separate clips: Taarabt tries to dribble past someone in every clip, does umpteen needless step-overs and attempts several incredibly optimistic long range efforts. Let’s just say he doesn’t pass the ball much.
Several years later, Taarabt hasn’t really grown up; if you watch him play now he will still seem like a child on the playground, doing skills to impress his friends.
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Some supporters have quickly grown tired of this, pointing to his selfishness as the reason his career is yet to take off. Others will cherish his arrogance because of the occasional times he pulls off something extraordinary – it seems like you either love him or you hate him.
After a few eventful years at QPR, which saw him spearhead their charge to the Championship title, Benfica are the latest club to take a punt on Taarabt’s mercurial talent. So far, his start there has gone pretty much as expected.
Desporto, a Portuguese newspaper, claimed that should Taarabt wish to start a game for his new club, he needs to lose 1.5kg. If you think that sounds familiar, you'd be right. Harry Redknapp famously criticised the Moroccan's waistline whilst he was at QPR, saying:
'He's not injured. He's not fit. He's not fit to play football unfortunately. He played in a reserve game the other day and I could have run about more than he did. I can't protect people who don't want to run and train, and are about three stone overweight.'
Has there ever been a better example of wasted talent than Taarabt?
He's been handed a dream move with a club playing in the Champions League, but also a club where he's good enough to start regularly - and he's wasting it. The Benfica faithful would love to see him sort his fitness out, then again so would every football fan who appreciates natural ability. Taarabt has it in abundance.
If Taarabt can fulfill his potential, he could become one of the world's best. There are few players out there blessed with his talent and skill. On the other hand, he could continue to flop and end up playing in Qatar in a year or two. Those who enjoy watching attackers as blessed as him, will sincerely hope he can finally live up to his promise.
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