Olimpia fans go wild for evergreen Adebayor - but Libertadores glory is the Decano dream

Emmanuel Adebayor Olimpia
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The Paraguayan giants doubled their membership base in the days leading up to the striker's arrival, as Adebayor fever gripped Asuncion

The January transfer window usually sees South America's top clubs sweating as their stars draw the attention of their counterparts in Europe, MLS and elsewhere. This summer in the Southern Hemisphere, however, all eyes were on the big names lining up to play across the continent.

Estudiantes struck with the double signing of Marcos Rojo and Javier Mascherano, while Banfield caused a stir when they convinced erstwhile rock star Dani Osvaldo to come out of retirement. Over in Brazil, Botafogo secured a coup with the arrival of Keisuke Honda, who received the rock-star treatment himself upon arriving in Rio de Janeiro. But it was Paraguay, so often overlooked on a continental level, that stole a march on its illustrious neighbours to the north and south.

Former Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Togo sharpshooter Emmanuel Adebayor drove Olimpia fans wild as he signed on the dotted line in Asuncion , and he is hoping to become properly introduced to his new side on the biggest of stages as the club gears up for Sunday's Superclasico Paraguayo against arch-rivals Cerro Porteno.

The arrival of the ex-Premier League favourite began to circulate on social media as a seemingly wild rumour at the start of February but quickly picked up momentum when Olimpia announced his possible signing as an incentive to the club's fans.

Should the Decano pick up 20,000 new members, they promised, Adebayor would join old City team-mate Roque Santa Cruz and Olimpia's fellow arrival, the returning Paraguay international Derlis Gonzalez, in a fearsome forward line.

Reaction to the stunt was overwhelming, with more than 15,000 supporters answering the call in the space of four days and joining up as members – at a stroke almost doubling the previous number.

Olimpia duly obliged and revealed the blockbuster transfer, with Adebayor joining up with his new team-mates last Friday morning and receiving a rapturous reception upon arriving at Asuncion airport.

“I am part of the Olimpia family now,” he signalled to fans in a video released on Twitter.

Emmanuel Adebayor Olimpia

“I have to follow their dreams, I have to meet their targets... let's enjoy ourselves together! It's going to be a beautiful year and a beautiful time for me in Paraguay.”

Adebayor later added to the BBC : "This was one of the most emotional days in my life.

"I understand that maybe some people know my name already, but I never expected the large turnout that greeted me so early on my arrival. We landed at 1am and to see about 5,000 fans singing my name was emotional and unbelievable.

"They could've been sleeping or watching a movie but they came out to welcome me. I've played around the world but what I've seen, the Olimpia fans are one of the best."

The 35-year-old, who played the first half of the 2019-20 campaign in Turkey with Kayserispor, seems to have had no trouble getting used to his new surroundings. His debut training session on Monday saw Adebayor net five goals and all indications suggest that he will see playing time in Sunday's derby – tickets for which sold out within the space of 48 hours.

But it is not for the Paraguayan Primera Division, where Olimpia have dominated over the last two seasons winning all four short Apertura and Clausura championships, that the Decano have splashed out on such an extravagant signing.

Olimpia are the only Paraguayan side ever to win the Copa Libertadores, which they have lifted on three occasions. The last triumph, however, came back in 2002 and since then, save a run to the final seven years ago, they have fallen short of making a splash at continental level as the financial muscle and incredible talent pool of Argentine and Brazilian clubs have dominated.

That last final defeat came against another team who had staked their fortunes on a player of worldwide repute, as Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro team broke Olimpia hearts by fighting back from a 2-0 first-leg deficit before prevailing on penalties.

Emmanuel Adebayor GFX Olimpia

With Adebayor joining Santa Cruz and Gonzalez up front and experienced warriors like Richard Ortiz, Rodrigo Rojas, Antolin Alcaraz and Julio Caceres providing a foundation and being as solid as they come in South American football, there is plenty in this Olimpia team to encourage fans.

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The Decano also benefit from a relatively kind draw in the Libertadores, with Santos likely to provide the toughest challenge in a Group G rounded out by Ecuadorian minnows Delfin and Argentina's Defensa y Justicia, only now finding their feet in 2019-20 under new boss Hernan Crespo.

Once in the knock-outs, of course, the real work starts. The likes of formidable defending champions Flamengo – who, most unusually on the continent, have maintained the vast bulk of their Copa-winning squad and even strengthened so far in 2020 – losing finalists River Plate and the ever-dangerous Boca Juniors, Gremio, Palmeiras and Sao Paulo are just a few of the dangers that could stand between Olimpia and success.

If Adebayor was expecting a graceful final jaunt through football he can think again. The joy and fervour expressed by the Decano faithful is accompanied by great expectations; he must now prove he is up to the task by rolling back the years and leading his new side to glory both at home and in the much-coveted Libertadores.

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