Love him or hate him, there’s little doubt that Emmanuel Adebayor is one of the greatest characters the African game has produced over the last decade.
Of course, his attitude and off-the-field problems occasionally detract from his talent, but it’s easy to forget that the West African was once Africa’s most expensive player.
He doesn’t have the honours of some of his peers across the continent, but Ade certainly has a remarkable story to tell.
On paper, and at times during his career, Adebayor has been a striker who has looked to have had the lot.
He is physically powerful, has an excellent turn of pace, has admirable technical prowess and can thrive when the ball is on the ground or in the air.
He can drop deep and involve himself in the build-up, or play off the shoulder of the last defender and stretch defences.
His nickname of ‘Baby Kanu’ hints at the balance, poise and invention with which he dissects defences.
When in the mood, he has the force of personality to inspire those around him, and his flamboyance can change the course of contests.
However, that isn’t the full story…
On the field, Adebayor’s regular indifference and indiscipline has often undermined his talent and overshadowed his contribution.
While he was remarkably motivated and effective during Tim Sherwood’s time in charge at White Hart Lane, this contrasted starkly with anonymous showings under Andre Villas-Boas and Mauricio Pochettino.
This inconsistency saw him lose his way at both Arsenal and Manchester City, while a taste for controversy has seen him make enemies of Frank Lampard, Nicklas Bendtner, Robin van Persie, Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Alvaro Arbeloa among others.
A high challenge on Santi Cazorla saw him sent off in a North London derby against Arsenal, which Spurs went onto lose 5-2. It was an example of how his hot-headedness and impetuousness was increasingly becoming a detriment to the side.
Infamously, he severed all ties with Arsenal in spectacular fashion when he ran the length of the pitch to celebrate scoring a goal against then for City in front of the visiting fans.
Adebayor has had a love-hate relationship with Togo, with controversial episodes punctuating his international career, and has latterly had to face accusations of laziness from former teammate Brede Hangeland.
For such a talented player, and particularly one who’s played for so many major clubs, Adebayor’s trophy cabinet is remarkably sparse.
As a youngster with AS Monaco he was an unused substitute as the Club of the Principality were defeated by Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto in the Champions League final, while he came off the bench for Real Madrid in their victorious Copa del Rey success over Barcelona in 2011.
It’s the sole club honour of the West African’s career.
Unsurprisingly, Adebayor has never won any continental honours with tiny Togo, although he was influential as the Sparrow Hawks reached their first—and to date only—World Cup in 2006.
Ade was top scorer in qualifying—bagging 11 goals for Stephen Keshi’s side—as they reached the tournament ahead of the likes of Senegal, Zambia and Mali.
At the time of writing, he is Togo’s all-time top goalscorer, but failed to find the net at the recently concluded Afcon in Gabon.
In contrast to his relative dearth of success at club or international level, Adebayor’s individual talent has been well rewarded.
During his prime years—2007 and 2008—he became the first Togolese player to win the African Footballer of the Year award (in 2008), a year after winning the BBC African Footballer of the Year award.
He made the PFA Premier League Team of the Year for the 2007-08 season—when he scored 24 in 36 for Arsenal—and also won the division’s Goal of the Season award for an excellent effort against Spurs.
"Everything I do in life I put in the hands of God, my creator. He gave me the chance to be where I am today and He’s the one that can take it all away from me. There is nothing more important for me than God." - Adebayor on Faith
"In training, the worst player on a Friday used to get a £50 fine which would go to a charity up the road, a little kid's hospice. Adebayor never paid his and Sebastien Bassong said, 'come on Ade, you earn £200,000-a-week, and you haven't paid £50 to the charity for being the worst player last week'. He [Adebayor] said, 'don't insult me... I earn 225 [thousand pounds a week]'." - Harry Redknapp on BT Sport
“I’ve already apologised so many times for what happened with Manchester City. Emotions took over and I regret, to be honest, what I did. I have said that publicly, because Arsenal gave me everything. I committed a big mistake that day but it was emotional.” - Adebayor to The Sun on celebrating against Arsenal
“[Roberto] Mancini always had his way and then whenever he went into the club he was, like, I don’t want you. I want [Mario] Balotelli to come and play for me because your scoring rate is not that good. I thought, OK, maybe you are talking about another Adebayor. I told him to go on the internet.
“When we had strength workouts he would sit in the gym with just a cup of coffee and a muffin. He was being paid by [Manchester] City, Tottenham and Palace at the same time, and he was sitting in the gym drinking coffee. Incredible natural talent, but very lazy.” - Brede Hangeland on Adebayor
“We had a place in our squad for Manu, so I arranged to meet him for a coffee in Lyon, but, to my surprise, when he arrived he asked for a shot of whisky in his coffee. He also had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth." - Lyon coach Bruno Genesio