The Nomad Footballer Series: Emmanuel Adebayor

Nomad: A person who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer.

Clubs: Metz, Monaco, Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid (loan), Tottenham Hotspur (loan), Tottenham Hotspur, Crystal Palace, Istanbul Basaksehir, Kayserispor, Olimpia

Countries played in: 5

Most professional footballers go through their whole career only having a handful of clubs. In fact, some manage to spend their whole career at just one club. Being a one-club man is something that endears football players to a fan base and is generally seen as the ultimate display of loyalty. However, what about those players that don’t manage to settle. The players who don’t find a home in their short professional career and instead jump from club to club in a pursuit of new challenges and success. This series looks at those players who are footballing nomads; wanderers.

Emmanuel Adebayor

Emmanuel Adebayor’s career had humble beginnings, with the Togo record goal scorer starting out at French club Metz. The striker was scouted by the club while playing for an academy in his homeland and was brought to the club in 1999, as a 15 year-old. He made his first team debut for the club in 2001 and was impressive in his two years playing for the first team, scoring 15 league goals in 44 games; 13 of which came in his second season after Metz had been relegated to Ligue 2. This earned him a move to Monaco, where he made nine Champions League appearances in the club’s run to the final of the competition in 2004, but was an unused substitute in the French side’s 3-0 defeat to Jose Mourinho’s Porto in the final.

It was in 2006, when Adebayor signed for Arsenal for £3 million, that Adebayor started to gain more attention. The gangly striker was a relative success in his three years at the Gunners, with his inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year for the 2008/09 season a personal highlight. He also became the first Premier League player to score a hat-trick against the same side twice in the same season, with Derby the unfortunate recipients. It appeared the Togo international had a settled home at the Emirates, however, when Manchester City came calling in 2009 it didn’t take long for Adebayor to agree to move.

It was at Manchester City that Adebayor had the moment he is most famous for, or infamous for if you are an Arsenal fan. The fourth game of is Manchester City career came against his former employer and, having scored his fourth goal in consecutive matches, the striker ran the full length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the irate Arsenal fans. If this wasn’t enough, he also appeared to stamp on Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie during the game and was accused of slapping Alex Song and attempting to stamp on Cesc Fabregas during the 4-2 victory. If Adebayor had any admirers left at Arsenal following his move he had well and truly burned his bridges now. The move to fierce North London rivals ,Tottenham Hotspur, in 2011 cemented this further, following a loan move to Real Madrid.

Since leaving Tottenham in 2015 aged 31, Adebayor’s long list of club grew further. He would have been forgiven for starting to think of retirement, but instead he joined another London club in Crystal Palace in 2016 as a free agent. However, after one goal in 12 Premier League appearances he was soon on the move once again. Turkey was his destination, first with Besiktas and then onto Kayserispor.

His most recent transfer has been his strangest to date, though. In February 2020 Adebayor joined Paraguayan first division club Olimpia, becoming the highest-paid, and highest-profile, footballer in Paraguayan football history. The 87 times capped Togo international only managed two league appearances before Covid-19 put a stop to football in Paraguay. Now unattached to a club, Adebayor is not officially retired, despite the fact he is now 37. With the 11 clubs he has on his footballing CV it would be no surprise to see Adebayor find himself another club, perhaps in another obscure footballing nation.

The longest Adebayor has spent at any one club in his career to date is three years; making him a true footballing nomad. His strange desire to alienate fans of his former clubs is a trait that means that it is difficult for any fanbase to reflect on his time with any great fondness. His perceived lack of loyalty may harm his footballing legacy in Europe, but in Africa, and more specifically Togo, he is considered a great. His 32 goals in 87 caps unrivalled, as well as being the second highest scoring African in Premier League history with 97 goals.

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