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Football's Forgotten Men

'That's Arsenal for you' - Aubameyang saga giving Gunners fans flashbacks of Adebayor's acrimonious exit

1:00 PM GMT+4 29/01/2022
Emmanuel Adebayor Manchester City Arsenal Premier League 2009
The Togolese striker left north London in controversial circumstances in 2009 to join Manchester City but he maintains that he was forced out

As Arsenal and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang go through what looks like a long and messy divorce, Emmanuel Adebayor looks on with more insight into the situation than most others.

Aubameyang, who was stripped of the captaincy by Mikel Arteta after multiple disciplinary breaches, looks set to leave north London sooner rather than later, with his future lying in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere.

For Adebayor, there are plenty of parallels between the Gabon international's current situation and his own acrimonious Emirates exit.

He told Sky Sports News this week: "I know he's going through a lot, because that's Arsenal for you. They never knew how to forgive."

Adebayor played for Arsenal for three years before signing for Manchester City in 2009, much to the fury of Gunners supporters, after falling out with then-manager Arsene Wenger.

As with Aubameyang, things had started well for Adebayor at Arsenal.

At the age of 15, he had left his native Togo to join French outfit Metz and impressed in Ligue 2 before being signed by Monaco, where, in 2004, he played nine games during the principality's run to the Champions League final, where they lost to Jose Mourinho's Porto.

After a couple more years shining in France, he was snapped up by Arsenal in January 2006 and was immediately touted as Nwankwo Kanu's successor.

Like Kanu, Adebayor could dominate in the air on account of his height and strength, but his pace and skill also enabled him to terrorise defenders with the ball at his feet and runs in behind backlines.

Adebayor even wore the No 25 at Arsenal, the same as Kanu.

He could have followed Kanu further by representing Nigeria, the country of his parents, but instead played for birth nation Togo, helping them make what remains their only World Cup appearance, in 2006, and went on to become his nation's all-time record goalscorer.

It looked for a while as though Adebayor would become the next superstar Premier League striker with Arsenal.

In 2007-08, he scored 24 goals in 36 league matches – 30 in 48 across all competitions – as the Gunners finished just four points behind champions Manchester United.

A GOAL profile on Adebayor in 2008 was fulsome in its praise. "Arsene Wenger appears once again to have found another gem. Adebayor’s lethal touch in front of goal has positioned him as one of the best strikers in Europe this season," we said.

However, that piece also indicated a move away from Arsenal could be forthcoming, with both Real Madrid and AC Milan showing interest.

Adebayor's head was turned and though he stayed at Arsenal, he could not hit the heights of the previous campaign before joining newly wealthy Manchester City in a £25 million ($34m) transfer in July 2009.

The circumstances surrounding Adebayor's departure from Arsenal differ depending on who tells the story but the Togolese remains in no doubt that he was the innocent party.

He told Turkish television programme Beyond The Game in 2018: "I had a meeting with Arsene Wenger in his office and he told me I had to leave because he didn't see my future anymore in Arsenal.

"So, I didn't have any choice other than join Man City, who I was very happy to join.

"The next day, when I joined Manchester City, I saw him doing a press conference in London saying that I wanted to leave because the money was big. That is where the hate for Arsenal came from."

This feeling of animosity bubbled over in one of the most infamous moments in Premier League history, when, after scoring for Man City in a game against the Gunners in September 2009, Adebayor ran the full length of the field at the Etihad Stadium to celebrate in front of the away supporters.

Adebayor was fined for inciting the crowd – as well as being given a three-match ban for stamping on Robin van Persie during the game – but he remains adamant that he was provoked into a reaction by racial abuse.

"When I celebrated, the FA punished me. Nothing happened to the Arsenal fans. So, [the racism] started with me and long before me,” Adebayor told the Daily Mail in 2019.

“I remember getting to the stadium and Arsenal fans were there. All I heard was the chant, 'Your mother is a whore and your father washes elephants.'

"My father worked in currency exchange and my mother is a businesswoman, but this went on and on. So, how can I reply? I didn't have a voice to go against thousands of supporters.

“If a sniper shot me, he would not have struck me down. I was in my spiritual zone.

"Kolo Toure said to me: 'I was looking at the pictures and you didn't flinch once.' I didn't feel human anymore. The abuse was too much. I was ready to die. I just looked at them and thought, 'There are things you don't do.'"

That game arguably marked the high point of his Man City career – he was moved on when Roberto Mancini became manager, spending time on loan at Real Madrid before joining Tottenham, thus sticking the finger up at Arsenal one final time.

A short stint at Crystal Palace and spells in Turkey with Istanbul Basaksehir and Kayserispor followed, before an unusual coda in South America.

Adebayor's career was forced to a conclusion in the summer of 2020 as he left Paraguayan side Olimpia – where he had reunited with former Man City colleague Roque Santa Cruz – after just four games due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Although not officially retired, he has been a free agent since.

While the Aubameyang sideshow may be embarrassing for newer Arsenal fans, veteran supporters have seen it all before.

However, they will hope the aftermath is nowhere near as bitter as the one left behind by Adebayor.

You can check in on more of GOAL's Forgotten Men here.