If and when Emmanuel Adebayor takes the field in one of the Premier League's most hotly contested derbies this weekend, an unlikely unification will bring Arsenal and Tottenham fans together. The controversial striker has achieved the rare feat of being equally loathed by both the white and red side of north London. For a player approaching 100 Premier League goals, the idea that Adebayor could end his career without leaving a positive legacy behind is a baffling one.
That is what this 30-year-old is facing up to. His career has been littered with quality and controversy in equal measure. For every goal he has scored, there has been a training session missed, a fan base alienated or an international retirement.
West Ham co-chairman David Gold had told his devoted Twitter followers not to go to bed on Monday evening with the transfer deadline looming large. It is generally accepted that the Hammers were pushing hard to bring Adebayor to Upton Park on loan.
Daniel Levy, still bitter about that Olympic Stadium decision, blocked the move. What followed next sums up the way fans feel about the Togo's record goal scorer. West Ham fans started celebrating while Tottenham fans slumped in disappointment. The black sheep will stay at White Hart Lane where he remains vice-captain behind Youness Kaboul and Hugo Lloris.
While most fans will be glad to see the back of him when he inevitably leaves our game, he will remain one of the most fascinating characters the Premier League has ever seen.
Adebayor's story almost ended where it began. A young boy, born to Nigerian parents, had still not taken his first steps by the time his fourth birthday came around. His mother ferried the family around Western Africa in search of a solution. Eventually, there was no option but to pray.
"I was in the church laying down and, around nine or ten o’clock on the Sunday morning, I could hear children playing outside." , Adebayor told The Telegraph in 2009.
“Suddenly somebody kicked a ball into the church. And the first person to stand up and run was me, because I wanted to get that ball.
“My mum was afraid because she had never even seen me walking and suddenly I was running after a ball. And all the people in the church who had been praying for me told my mum, ‘Your son is walking because of football. It must mean the boy has football in his blood.’"
It was a stuttered start to a journey that would see him scouted by Metz coach Francis De Taddeo during a youth tournament in Sweden, be named the best player in Ligue 2 as a teenager before leaving for Ligue 1 hotshots AS Monaco. It was in the principality where Adebayor would start to cut out a reputation as a troublemaker.
Having missed training several times, Adebayor had been told his time at the club was up. Surprisingly, Arsene Wenger was one of few managers ready to pounce, paying £7 million for the 21-year-old in January 2006.
The new Thierry Henry
18 months later and Wenger agreed to sell Henry to Barcelona with a view to Adebayor becoming the main man. Even Henry believed the Togolese striker was up to the challenge – 12 goals in 42 Premier League appearances suggested he was anything but.
But Wenger's decision, and Henry's prediction, was justified the very next season. Adebayor scored 29 goals in all competitions and looked to have the potential to be every bit as good as his glorious predecessor.
This was a strange time to be an Arsenal player though. Wenger was restricted by tight finances and could not offer Adebayor the money he wanted and arguably deserved. His agent went on a one-man mission during the summer of 2008, claiming Adebayor would leave for AC Milan unless he was given £120,000-a-week.
It was not the first time the subject of money had dented his position within a squad. He was dropped by the Togo Football Federation in 2007 after a row over unpaid bonuses. Adebayor had started to build the perception of an agenda that haunts him to this day.
Arsenal fans were riled by Adebayor's flirtations and his place in the squad became untenable. He stayed for one more season, scoring 15 goals. The level of commitment that had won the Arsenal faithful over was gone, as was the affection and the fairly new Emirates Stadium.
Wenger jumped at the chance to sell him to Manchester City for £25 million in the 2009 summer transfer window. Weeks after the move, Adebayor lit the match on a petrol-soaked bridge connecting him with the Gunners.
He told The Independent in 2009: "When a player plays well everybody loves him. I'd just scored 30 goals in [the 2007-08] season, and it wasn't my fault Milan or Barcelona or Real Madrid want to sign me. The fans never understood that; they never understood why [those clubs] wanted to buy me. I couldn't understand why they were after me. I'd done everything, made a speech, played for three years, done my best. The way the fans behaved towards me was not nice at all."
Ultimately, Wenger's need to raise funds through player sales made the decision to sell Adebayor all the more easier. There seems little doubt that Adebayor agitated his way out of the club, swapping the Gunners for the Citizens where he would earn £150,000-a-week.
That famous moment, sprinting the length of the Etihad pitch to celebrate the third in a 4-2 win for his new club, was the nail in the coffin for his Arsenal leagcy. It was an action that would leave a steward unconscious and him £25,000 poorer. In the same game, he had stamped on Robin van Persie's face. In total, Adebayor was given a five-match ban for his actions on that day; three for the stamp, two for the celebration.
But Adebayor could not have been too concerned. His revenge was secured. The Arsenal fans had hurt him and he wanted his own back. This defiant style is one so similar to a man who came from nothing.
Three months later, he would cheat death while one of his closest friends died in his arms.
The deadly gun attack on the Togo team bus during the 2010 African Cup of Nations left three dead. One of those was the team's press officer Stan Ocloo, who Adebayor alter described as his "big brother".
Adebayor told L'Equipe: "He counselled me, I called him when I was sad at my clubs.
"I spent a year-and-a-half [trying] to digest because he died in my arms. I collapsed in tears, I saw everyone crying.
"The club took me to a psychologist, it was really decisive. When a brother dies in your arms, it's very, very hard..."
Coming back from such trauma would have been hard for most and impossible for some, but only three weeks later, Adebayor was reporting for duty. Unfortunately, there was still no place for him at Manchester City.
By the end of the month he would be at Real Madrid where Jose Mourinho used him to give Karim Benzema a kick up the backside. There was never any intention from the Special One to buy Adebayor, but Benzema's development since then suggests his six-month presence at the Bernabeu saved a stuttering career.
The pay off
So desperate were Manchester City to get Adebayor off the books that they agreed to subsidise his wages as he moved back to north London, this time to his current location: Tottenham.
It was a great deal for Tottenham. Manchester City agreed to pay a significant portion of his wages. In return Spurs would get a striker that would score 17 Premier League goals and help them to a fourth place finish. Only Chelsea's Champions League triumph stopped them getting back into Europe's top tier competition. This was Adebayor getting back to his best. The hunger was back. He finally wanted to prove himself.
Harry Redknapp wanted a permanent deal done and dusted, but the £5 million move wouldn't be confirmed until the third week of August. The problem, again, was money.
Eventually Manchester City were forced to subsidise Adebayor's wages for the remainder of his contract as well as hand the player a significant portion of the transfer fee. It was a financial disaster for the Citizens, masked only by their Sheik benefactor.
It also left Tottenham fans wondering whether Adebayor was truly committed to the club. He had shown desire and passion whilst on loan, but ultimately that came at a price. The strung out negotiations seemed to exhaust a fledgling relationship.
Since that summer, Adebayor's relationship with Tottenham has been one of disenchantment. Frozen out under Andres Villas-Boas, training with the reserves while those six-figure cheques rolled in, Adebayor seemed destined to sit out his contract, costing the club tens of millions.
Only a six-month stint under Tim Sherwood did the gangly goal scorer show signs of revitalisation. He scored 11 goals in 20 Premier League matches once Sherwood had taken charge, but his purple patch was no coincidence, as the former England midfielder recently revealed.
He told The Telegraph: "I made him feel like he was the main man. My brief when I took over as the manager of Tottenham was to try and make the team a little be more attractive and score more goals.
"Around the training ground he was a credit, and a good example to the likes of Harry Kane and the young players who were coming through the club. He always conducted himself fantastically well."
But once again, that form has gone and the stories of greed resurface. Kicking his mother out of his house and denying her access to his now elaborate fortune, leading to comical suggestions that juju magic was preventing him from scoring goals proved false, but the fact that many fans readily accepted such tomfoolery is testament to how fans feel about him.
Adebayor doesn't want to be hated, but fans are so ready to hate him. The only reason this pantomime continues is because Adebayor's thick skin doesn't allow him to care what anyone thinks.
In December he returned to Africa amid reports that a family member was seriously ill. He missed one game, a Europa League tie against Besiktas, but returned to jeers from a section of Spurs supporters for a home game against Sunderland.
After the Sunderland win, Adebayor said: “I don’t know if I’ll win the fans over, I just want to do my job as a professional and enjoy myself. I’m not here to win any fans back. I don’t want to understand why I was booed. I’m very happy to be me."
Money is king
Like many before him, Adebayor, raised in such harsh conditions, sought to get the most out of his time in the world's richest football league. He has always demanded to be well paid for his services, allowing fans and managers to assume a lack of commitment to the cause.
But his quality has been clear for all to see and he stands as one of only a handful of Africans to truly make an impact, for better or worse, on the European game.
New manager Mauricio Pochettino – the fourth since Adebayor arrived in 2012 – may have been spared by the emergence of Harry Kane, who by Sherwood's admission, was helped greatly by Adebayor's influence.
But Adebayor won't take credit for Kane's emergence, nor will he bemoan Daniel Levy's refusal to let him leave for West Ham. He is no longer a man who seeks redemption, revenge of affection; his legacy is sealed. But neither has he given up. His influence continues away from the pitch, where takes thousands of pounds out of the Premier League and gifts it back to communities that need it much more.
Reaching 100 Premier League goals, despite being out of favour for what seems like an age, would be testament to this man, once tipped to be the new Thierry Henry by none other than Thierry Henry himself.
Things may not have gone his way, and his misguided pursuit of money may have lead him down a path less glorious than his talent deserved. But in the end, he has been a success. Like him or loathe him, the boy has done good.
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