Emmanuel Adebayor: Arsenal fans would love to see me back there
For one of the most controversial figures in English football, Emmanuel Adebayor is not a man who spends too much time worrying about his reputation, but you would be wrong to think he does not have strong opinions on the matter.
At 27 and now at the third English club in his career, Adebayor does not care that people think he moves on too often. He says that the Arsenal supporters who berated him for leaving should now recognise why he did so. He has no regrets about leaving Manchester City because, as he says, when a club wants him out, he does not hang about. And as for Tottenham, he is happy there.
Going into tomorrow's game against Queens Park Rangers, Adebayor is yet to be on the losing side for his new club whom he joined, on-loan from City, at the start of last month. He came into the team against Wolves on 10 September, scored three in his first two games and has been part of a run that has seen Spurs take 16 points from a possible 18 and climb the table to fifth place.
Yes, life is pretty good now. He has a new perspective, changed by his experience in January last year when he was on the Togo team bus in which three people were killed when it was shot at in Angola during the African Cup of Nations. He has an 18-month-old daughter, Kendra and it was his family's preference that, after Real Madrid decided against making his loan spell permanent this summer, he should aim to play in London again.
Whatever you think of Adebayor, what is not in doubt is that he speaks his mind. Ask him what he thinks of the song sung to him by some Arsenal fans at White Hart Lane this season — the one that went “It should have been you/Shot in Angola/ It should have been you” — and he looks you in the eye and gives you a straight answer.
“Of course it does not affect me. How can it?” he says. “I think so many Arsenal fans would love to have me back. Forget about what they are saying. When people have the time to prepare a song about somebody that means they have a love for the person, somehow. Otherwise they would be concentrating on the game rather than Adebayor.
“At the end of the day they were losing 2-1 and they were singing my name. Somewhere in their head they were saying ‘yeah, I am abusing him but I would still love to have him (at Arsenal)'. But I am at Tottenham and I am very happy. Those chants? Forget about them.
“I have more important issues than that. I was in a bus where people were shooting and I had people dying in my hands. So for Arsenal fans — people I don't even know — singing about me. For me it is a joke. I just take that as a joke.”
He uses “joke” in the sense that he regards the chants as insignificant, rather than something that might be construed as funny.
“I am from Togo and where I was born I didn't have anything,” he says.
“Thank God for what I am and what I have today. It is not about 2,000 people singing trying to affect me. I know everywhere I go I have the door open because I am a great footballer and a great person.
“I always know that if I meet a group of Chelsea fans tomorrow, they say 'We love you but don't score against Chelsea.' That is football. That is what I love about the game because sometimes you meet funny people.”
His has been a funny career too, from training in the reserves at City in August after he came back from Madrid to joining Spurs. It was Adebayor's two goals against Tottenham at the Bernabeu in the Champions League that helped eliminate Spurs last season.
Now, six years after he came to Arsenal from Monaco he finds himself in the first Spurs team in a generation to have upper-hand on their local rivals.
He left Arsenal for City for£25m in the summer of 2009 and then found himself out of favour under Roberto Mancini. Does the accusation that he has appeared mercenary in his approach to transfers bother him?
“Not at all, because in my career I have travelled a lot,” he says. “If I showed you where I have played in Africa you would not believe I am talking to you today. It doesn't bother me at all. Life is about travelling. We have to learn.
“One day I will have a chance to return to my family, I can tell my children I played in Spain, in France. There are only a few players who play in the same team all their career. You come from somewhere and go somewhere else.
“All the best players travel a lot. Ronaldinho travelled a lot, Robinho travelled a lot. Ronaldo, the big (Brazilian) Ronaldo, was a big star and he travelled a lot. So it doesn't bother me at all. As long as my career in on track and I have a green pitch and a chance to play football that is all that matters to me.
“The people who say those things are maybe Arsenal fans (and they say them) because I left Arsenal. I had to move on. Thierry Henry came to Arsenal and he left. Cesc Fabregas came to Arsenal and he left. Why not Adebayor? I am not obliged to die at Arsenal.”
Later at the end of the interview, we return to the topic of Arsenal and I ask Adebayor what he thinks of their recent problems. He sidesteps the question before stopping to address what he says is “a little point.”
“Whenever they (Arsenal fans) read in the newspaper that Adebayor wanted to leave they will start abusing me, they start chanting against me even when I was still playing against Arsenal,” he said.
“Now everyone is leaving the club. I have left; Gael Clichy left; Fabregas has gone; Samir Nasri has gone. I think it shows that football is that kind of game. You come and you go.
“You don't have to start thinking that people have to die at Arsenal. They (fans) have to know that sometimes the club want you to go. It's not every time that it is the player who wants to go.
“I can understand that in some cases the players want to go, to move on. Because we don't have a career for 40 years we have a career for a maximum, until what? The age of 32? And then it is finished. From the age of 32 people still live to 70-80 years old and how are you going to live?”
At this point Adebayor stops and waits for my answer. I suggest that money is fairly crucial to that equation. “Thank you,” he replies. “Sometimes you have to understand that you need the money.”
He says that he took a wage cut to come to Tottenham, although how that works given that he has two years left on his City deal after this season is not clear. He also financially supports his friend and former team-mate the Togolese goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale who was shot in the spine in the attack in Angola and has had to retire from football.
The move to City made him one of the best-paid players in England, earning around £150,000 a week, but he and Mancini were never a good fit. Even looking at his parent club's recent success, Adebayor says that he has “no regrets” about what happened there because he felt he was not wanted at the club.
“I was 15 when I left all my family (to move to France) and don't get me wrong, it wasn't easy,” he says.
“But today leaving a club is the easiest thing for me to do. Especially when the club wants you out. I will just leave, as I have proved. Arsenal wanted me out. I left the club. Manchester City wanted me out. I left the club. I don't have any regrets. If you want me out, I will be out. I am not going to fuss. I only want to play football. I know what I can do. As soon as another club want me, and my club want me to leave, it is more than a pleasure for me to move on.”
That said, he still seems a little baffled as to why Jose Mourinho chose not to take him on at Madrid. Adebayor talks about the place in awed terms — “from the inside, trust me, it looks amazing” — and says that he was surprised by the friendliness of his superstar team-mates and manager who stay in touch. “Why didn't I stay there? I don't want to know because the more you question the more you get frustrated,” he says. “I didn't want that to happen.”
He likes Harry Redknapp, who has given him the freedom he craves. “He (Redknapp) said to me: ‘Adebayor, you know what you can do. Just go out there, have fun and bring me back the three points'. When a manager has that kind of belief, you don't want to disappoint him.”