By Jay Jaffa
It seems remarkably unprofessional on a club and player level that Emmanuel Adebayor will be allowed to flee north London for South Africa next week for the Africa Cup of Nations, but regardless of which party you feel is most responsible, it leaves Tottenham in an arduous position after a summer of neglect last year.
The vigorous one-eyed pursuit for Adebayor between seasons felt strange, particularly after the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas. The Togolese striker had played his best football for years in last season's fourth-place campaign under Harry Redknapp and was a popular member of the squad, but was he the right fit for Villas-Boas?
With Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, overseeing Tottenham's summer transfer business, it hardly mattered.
The fallout from an unhappy time at the Etihad Stadium left Manchester City looking to sell for peanuts and Levy salivating at the prospect of securing an impossibly cheap deal from the Premier League champions. The deal was done and initially it seemed a wise move – he had after all, contributed 17 goals and 11 assists in the league, the fourth highest combined contribution.
But reports of an early season disagreement suggested Adebayor had not warmed as much to Villas-Boas as he did to Redknapp's arm-round-the-shoulder approach and recent evidence suggests this relationship is set to deteriorate further.
He hardly endeared himself to the club by spending a sizable portion of the summer in the United States, returning to Tottenham woefully out of shape and short of fitness. By the time he was deemed ready to contribute to the first-team, Adebayor looked off the pace, overweight and quickly picked up an injury.
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Fast forward to the present day and although he started the last six league games, scoring once, as part of a 4-4-2, he will jet off to the Africa Cup of Nations after Saturday's match at QPR, despite initially informing the club and his nation that he would boycott the tournament on account of unpaid bonuses and the absence of security promises.
Further still, after Villas-Boas' public claims that he would not stand in Adebayor's way, the striker told the Togolese Football Federation: “So that’s what he told the press, but this is not what he told me. There is a difference between what is said face to face and what is said to the press. So I will go there and I will discuss it with Daniel Levy after I get back.”
In the cold light of day, his U-turn is hugely unprofessional and puts the ambitions of the White Hart Lane outfit in jeopardy, as well as having the makings of the first spat between Adebayor and the club. That said, this brings us to the wider and far more long-running debate about the manner of Tottenham's transfer dealings.
In signing Adebayor and allowing Louis Saha to leave the club after a six-month spell, Levy, Villas-Boas and everyone working behind the scenes would have been aware of the possibility that the 28-year-old would be unavailable for a portion of the season (if Togo reach the final, he will miss four league games and one FA Cup tie). In fact, everyone in the stands, armchairs and on forums would have seen this scenario coming months ago.
Tottenham are in a mess. It may only be temporary, but the league is as finely balanced as it has been in the Premier League era (if you discount the two Manchester teams) and dropped points in this period could well prove damaging when the final scores are totted up in May.
Jermain Defoe will be the club's only senior striker for almost a month (Clint Dempsey may be labelled a striker by the manager and coaches, but that is merely PR spin), and the more cynical supporters will be expecting an injury to sideline the 30-year-old as soon as Adebayor disappears.
Defoe has netted just one league goal since he was regularly partnered with Adebayor, which may, perversely, give fans hope, if Spurs return to Villas-Boas' preferred 4-2-3-1. Prolific in the opening stages of the season, Defoe confounded those who expected him to be marginalised by a new more intricate system. Perhaps Tottenham will see the best of Defoe when he is asked to carry the goalscoring burden once more.
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There have been commendable aspects to his dealings – namely the swoop to bring Rafael van der Vaart to the club and the low cost approach to building a top four capable squad, all the while planning a multi-million pound stadium and regeneration of the area. But he also failed to secure Joao Moutinho, Villas-Boas' number one target – a player they are pursuing once again – and an intelligent target man capable of leading the line as a 'one'.
Reports of an official bid for Internacional's striker Leandro Damiao offer encouragement, but for a saga that has dragged on for almost three years, no-one will be anticipating a swift conclusion to this move – particularly after the player distanced himself from a January switch.
Though the wheels have been set in motion commendably early, the Brazilian club are notoriously tricky to deal with as well, despite being a club partner. No-one expects this to be tied up in January.
So it leaves Tottenham with one striker, and an out-of-form striker at that. Yet, the problem is not with Defoe, it lies somewhere between the club and Adebayor.
For his part in this mess, it was always possible that he would change his mind and represent Togo at a major tournament.
The club, therefore, can only blame themselves for not devising a contingency plan for a situation they should have seen coming well in advance. Spurs will have to hope they get by without him.
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