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October 2020

The strange case of Adebayor, the miracle football and the missing motivation

By Tony Attwood

There is a somewhat strange article on Football365 today under the headline “Sign him: If Adebayor cares, Adebayor scores” by Sarah Winterburn who I think used to work for Sky Sports and now seems to have moved.

She does that thing of listing all the stuff she says everyone else is talking about, but in a way that suggests that only a turnip would actually remind you of them

Forget the wages (still being paid by Tottenham, lest you accidentally go three days without being reminded of this fact)…

and from there goes on to list some of the player’s better moments

He was brilliant enough at Arsenal to earn a £25m move to Manchester City…

…and then an astonishing 11 goals in 20 Premier League games made Tim Sherwood look like a Premier League manager when he wanted to prove a point to Andre Villas-Boas.

and from this (albeit rather limited amount of evidence scattered among some nifty twists and turns within the witty phraseology) concludes

If Adebayor returned to England on a mission to break a record and rescue a reputation, he would probably score goals. It’s what he does.

Which left me wondering.  Is, or was, or might he in the future actually be, any good?

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Ade played for six different teams between 2001 and now, but only with Arsenal did he make it to over 100 games – although Tottenham came close.  His record as a goalscorer (league games only) is

Pld Goals Ratio
2001/03 Metz 44 15 0.34
2003/06 Monaco 78 18 0.23
2006/09 Arsenal 104 46 0.44
2009/12 Manchester City 34 15 0.44
2011 Real Madrid (loan) 14 5 0.36
2011/12 Tottenham Hotspur (loan) 33 17 0.51
2012/15 Tottenham Hotspur 59 18 0.31

Now the argument from Ms Winterburn is that Ade’s issue is motivation and that for some reason, or perhaps lots of different reasons, he wasn’t motivated in the right way in some of his time as a player.

And since I am not (as often confessed in the past) a telepath, I can’t really be sure.  I have no idea what goes on in most people’s minds, but with Ade that applies doubly so.

But with Tottenham paying him £5.72m this year to do not very much, or in fact, to do nothing at all, one might think there was some motivation on their part to get him to go.

Arsenal’s motivation for letting him toddle along to be part of Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan’s football and money revolution was the money.  A profit of £22m in three years.  And that endless stream of football genius that the boss knows how to pick up.  Make a profit, get the performance, find another.

But what was Man C’s motivation for letting him go to the Real Mad gang and the Tiny Totts when he was scoring at that sort of ratio?  Indeed he was scoring at the same level with them as he was with Arsenal, and a very good level it was too.  And the Tinies signed him in 2012 off the back of that loan spell.

So if Ms Winterburn is right and Mr Adebayor (as Robin van Persie called him after Mr A stamped on Mr vP’s head in a league match) is now raring to go in order to become the top African scorer in the Premier League, we need to understand more.

But be wary.  Motivation is a curious thing, and when studying the old psychology lark I had to read quite a few books on it, the essence of which is indeed that different things motivate different people at different times in different ways and with different results.  (Now there’s a real psychological conclusion for you).  But then just because it is variable across every variant it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and can’t have an effect.  It must certainly does, and can.

The nature of the deal with the Tinies when they agreed to pay him, meant that Adebayor couldn’t sign for anyone until 1 January – but then since everyone knew that he was available, surely if they wanted him and he wanted them, wouldn’t they have done the deal in December, checked the facts with 748 High Road and then had him through the door on 1 Jan?

But here’s another thing.  If Adebayor wanted to play club football before now, under the deal he did with Tottenham he could have joined a team outside England (other than Swansea) straightaway.

Sky reported that before the deal with Tottenham he had a chat to Tim Sherwood but decided against it (or maybe Tim decided against him), and also went to visit the latter day pornographers at West Ham but that didn’t come to anything either.

The whole thing seems most curious, but then so does the story that appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 3 Feb 2009.  It reads thus…

“I did not walk for the first four years of my life,” says Adebayor.

“My mum took me to Nigeria, Lagos, Ghana and all the villages in Africa but nothing happened.   It got to the stage where they took me to a church and told my mum they’d pray for me for a week. They said that, if I did not walk by the end of that week, it meant I would never walk….

“They started praying at midnight on the Sunday. All the week, I’m not walking. By Saturday midnight my mum was all over the place, crying. For her, it was all over. She had taken me everywhere in Africa and nothing had worked.   Anyway, I was in the church laying down and, around nine or ten o’clock on the Sunday morning, I could hear children playing outside.

“Suddenly somebody kicked a ball into the church. And the first person to stand up and run was me, because I wanted to get that ball.   My mum was afraid because she had never even seen me walking and suddenly I was running after a ball. And all the people in the church who had been praying for me told my mum, ‘Your son is walking because of football. It must mean the boy has football in his blood’.”

Now, as I have mentioned before, so there is no misunderstanding, I am an atheist, but am happy for others to have their different views on such matters as long as they are happy for me to have my views.  So because of my view of the world I find the story above hard to believe, but I am happy for others to believe it happened.

But if Mr Adebayor feels his mother was indeed telling the absolute truth (and remember the story is one told to him by his mother – he does not claim to remember the event), then you can understand why he is waiting for an appropriate sign, and why an appropriate sign would motivate him.  And having motivated him one way could then motivate him another way.

Being better versed in psychology than religion I would be deeply suspicious at such a point, if I was his manager, for to me the event in the church and the subsequent events in Adebayor’s life appear a random or at least inexplicable switching on and off of beneficence.  So how could one possibly know if Mr Adebayor would emerge this time as a man who didn’t want to play or who wanted to play?  How could one be sure if one was getting the head stamping monster or the nice guy who believes in God and wants to do good works?

A child who cannot walk until four years old and then who suddenly gets up and kicks a football is inexplicable through the understanding that the science I have studied gives me, which means I can’t make any predictions about what Mr Adebayor will emerge next.  As I say, as a manager I’d be cautious.

Still if he does get a club, it will be interesting to watch.

More anniversaries

  • 19 January 1898: Bill Harper born. Chapman broke the goalkeeper transfer fee for him, but when Harper dropped out of favour he became the first Arsenal man to play in the American soccer league – before later returning to Arsenal once more
  • 19 January 1921: Robert Turnbull joined Arsenal as an amateur.  He was a full back who scored 20 goals in 35 games!   He played initially for the Royal Engineers AFC – a club that appeared in four of the first eight FA Cup finals, becoming the first team that pioneered the passing game (known in the 19th century as the “combination” game).

Just published…

The Untold Books

Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed football, is now available on Kindle at £9.99.  For more details and to buy a copy please click here or go to Amazon Kindle and search forWoolwich Arsenal.

Forthcoming titles:

  • The Arsenal Yankee  By Danny Karbassiyoon
  • Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970.  By John Sowman.  Introduction by Bob Wilson.



25 comments to The strange case of Adebayor, the miracle football and the missing motivation

  • Josif


    If there are miracles, Arsene performed one of the greatest by convincing the world Adebayor could be relied on.

    The Togolese striker has had a difficult life. His personal statement about the relationship he has had with his family is one of the saddest stories I’ve read.

    His physical stature reminds me of Rivaldo’s. There was an article about how Rivaldo, a lanky magician who still plays football, now next to his son, was raised in poverty and didn’t want that to happen to him ever again. When they tell you that money is not important, it’s because they don’t know how does it feels when you can’t afford yourself a snack in a (public) school.

    I think Tony has written something about George Graham’s childhood that could fit into Adebayor’s biography. Now, Adebayor is the only famous Togolese player. Can you imagine how many people have asked him for money since his breakthrough? I’ve read a few lines that imply he gives a lot of money to poor people in his country. That would explain why members of his family felt as Adebayor has been giving away “their” money. And, even Ade can feel frustrated as his team-mates don’t have so many expenses and can spend their wages entirely on cars, houses, suits, trips, jewelry or whatever they want.

    I have a feeling that Ade – for all his stupid and violent acts – has gone through life where nobody is his true friend. He doesn’t believe anyone because he thinks everybody wants his money. And, he wants to take as much money as he can get from his employers because it’s importance of money that he’s been taught about since ever.

  • Josif

    Oh, and let’s not forget that attack on the bus of Togo team that saw Adebayor’s team-mates shot. After traumatic event like that one, it’s not easy to stay sane.

  • ClockEndRider

    Rejoice for we have been visited by the prophet of the Church of the Latter Day Charlatans……
    I can believe he didn’t walk until 4 years old. At that point someone offered him enough money and he was off like a shot.
    Ring any bells?

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Chief Tony, Sir, I’ll like it if you’ll believe there is a divine miracle and miracle happens. And the divine God is the miracle because his name is a miracle.

    I am not Adebayor”s advocate, but his story could be true, because a lot of strange things that one can’t ordinarily explained happens in Africa. I like Adebayor and have liked him more when he was staring for Arsenal. I didn’t despise him and Kolo Toure when they went to Man City, because we all know they went there for greener pastures. And they eventual got it there before they move on.

    The only time I was angry with Adebayor was when he raced and lost his self control to go ahead and celebrated in front of the Arsenal supporters after he scored a goal for Man City in a match Arsenal lost to Man City.

    I think Adebayor can still play at the top level of the game as he has even appeared to have gone through a training regime in his home country Togo, in preparation for a possible move to continuing playing in the Premier League if he’s given another chance to play there. What beats me is, why did Tottenham HS released him and continues paying his wages regularly. Why didn’t Spurs keep him to rundown his contract and even still be using him to play for them. And thus makes him earned him wages till the end of this season, instead of earning it for free?

    If Emmanuel Adebayor will agree to lower his weekly wages from his £100K Spurs pay packet and agrees to an end of this season contract deal, I think Mr Alan Pardew of Crystal Palace may sign him on. But who knows, Emma may get a better than Mr Pardew’s offer elsewhere.

  • shakabula gooner

    Anyhow, Adebayor is not a young player any more. He hasn’t played competitive for close to a season now. Being a successful striker at the highest level of competitive and professional football is not something that you can guaranty anytime and with less than peak preparation and conditioning. Not even Adebayor can be expected to turn on such magic, just like that.

  • serge

    And he’s still trousering £100K per week from Spurs without even playing for them. He has my admiration on that score.

  • Andy Mack

    I was told by a friend (who originates from west Africa) that Adebayor started using the same ‘African run’ barber shop in north London as him, shortly after he joined us. Apparently he quickly gained a gang of ‘yes’ men who kept telling him that he was the best etc and then they either started borrowing money for business ventures or joined him everywhere letting him pick up the bill.
    So his ego was being fed caviar but AFC could only afford smoked salmon.
    He then became quite divisive in the team changing room which started to cause issues, and he’s been dressing room cancer ever since…

    Just rumour!

  • Gord


    Maitland-Niles and Wellington are in FA Cup action today.

  • Tai

    Hmmmm…thought-provoking Tony…

    First, his story as a four-year old looks unbelievable but could be true. I mean, why should he invent such story? Stranger things have happened and in Africa, many people survive by miracles.

    I think Ade lost his radar that moment he spitted Wenger…a man that took him like a son…a man that made him African Footballer Of The Year. After that Man City debacle – mind you, racing all the way to celebrate in front of Arsenal fans wasn’t what really got me mad. If RVP didn’t shift his head on instinct, Adebayor’s stud could have gorged the Dutch’s eyes. It was that close and Adebayor did that with all intent and hatred.

    That moment I cursed Adebayor repeatedly…and from that day his slow demise began. All Adebayor needed to do was kneel on the Emirates turf and ask Arsenal fans for forgiveness. He didn’t and is still paying dearly.

    Nobody ridicules Wenger and goes home to enjoy it long term…ask Mourinho!

  • Pat

    The story of when he was a small child is not impossible. There are cases where children are physically capable of walking but seem to not choose to do so until suddenly something impels them, in this case the football.

    However I was put off Adebayor when I heard of his arrogant behaviour towards Bendtner – something to do with him wearing socks in the changing room – and saw him slap Bendtner on the pitch. I’m sure Bendtner could be annoying but he was only a young player and didn’t deserve that.

  • omgarsenal

    Tony,you quite rightly point out that different motivators and combinations thereof tend to work differently with different people. In Adebayors case, he clearly is fighting some rather nasty mental health issues, including a rather narcissistic personality, a profound lack of self-confidence underlying it all and a depression that might have been generated by his life experiences. I am not inventing this stuff, it has all been documented on various newsfeeds and media reports, as well as anecdotal commentary from colleagues.
    Adebayor finds playing Football too easy and scoring goals rather to be taken for granted. Hedoes not face adversity like your average bloke but rather tends to respond in an aggressive and confrontational manner as seen in his treatment of Bendtner and others at Arsenal.
    I believe his career is coming to an end but he reminds me of Anelka, not a great role model.

  • Gord

    Maitland-Niles scored today, but Ipswich wasn’t successful in winning. Wellington played most of the game for Bolton.

    The manager of Chile has apparently resigned, after arguing with the new Chile FA president.

  • Gord

    The Ex-Chile manager is apparently one of the people being considered to take over permanently at Chelsea. Which I don’t think would be nice, with Alexis just being down the road at our place.

    I looked up Zelalem in the news. He still seems to be doing well. No goals, but in 17 appearances he has 8 assists.

    He apparently has a pet hamster now. Named Otis.

    Named for who? Otis Redding?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Ade was one of those who wasted his talent by being unreasonable and bull headed. Loyalty was not his second name .Hope he is enjoying those millions that the Spuds are paying him.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Gord- January 20, 2016 at 3:03 am – Maybe after Otis the cute pug ?

    – The elevator company ?

  • Gord

    I had thought of the elevator company. But who would name a pet after an elevator?

  • ARSENAL 13


    But Zelalem is not like everybody else…

  • Menace

    Little Adebayor where can he go
    Couln’t walk until he was four
    Little Adebayor where can he go
    Where ever it is he wants more

    Little Adebayor where can he go
    Where ever he plays he can score
    Little Adebayor where can he go
    Whatever he wants the answer is No!

  • Menace

    Gord – probably Otis Elevators – he probably has his ups & downs! 😉

  • Menace

    Zalelem – great vision & fantastic touch. A different kind of Ozil.

  • I do appreciate the point raised about the difficulty Ade has in being the one very big name player from his country, and everything that follows from that.

    My main motivation in writing the piece was to question the notion that after all this he is likely to deliver a rousing finish to his career. I could be wrong though – I usually am on such matters.

  • para

    Zalelem, would love to see him come in the team alongside Ozil next season, at least in the pre-season.

  • Adebayors tale is an Anticlimax ;
    KANU, Weah and Toure still honour Wenger
    The biggest helper of Africans
    Muamba as O heard strolled into Emirates and Wenger took him in…

    Am a West African Theist and love Wenger to a fault, had altercations with some MAN U fans during the Stoke match. They keep muttering to themselves in awe on why I love Arsenal and Wenger much.

    I pitied Adebayor for not only leaving Arsenal buy choose to gloat.

    What is it with Wenger that any player that leaves Arsenal never seem to find their bearings footballistically ?

    Wenger is a genius

  • Gord


    Today is Theo’s 10th anniversary at Arsenal

    In the past, there has been no end of muppets in the medja (MITM, not MOTM) saying that Theo was nothing but track star. He had no football brain.

    Today, has an interview with Wenger up about Theo. Wenger said that ever since he first saw Theo (at age 14!) that Theo had 2 things: pace and running off the ball.

    Who’s right? The muppets in the medja, or Wenger? My moneyis on Wenger. Theo has always had a football brain, and the muppets in the medja only have mush for brains (MITMMFB).

    Happy Anniversary Theo!

  • Arvind

    No way Ade is coming back. After everything.

    There was an Eboue rumour though which made me happy. He could be a 3-4 month stopgap for sure. And who doesn’t likee Eboue? Except the AAA of course who destroyed him, Denilson, Senderos and a few others. Will they accept that. Never.

    Indeed Gord. Thanks for bringing that up :). I am so so happy Theo and Arsenal have always found a solution. And I sincerely hope he retires with us… in 6 7 years or so. Scoring lots and lots of goals :). Not once has he ever ever behaved badly, even during all those contract negotiations that were blown up by the AAA.

    To anyone who has followed Theo and is reading? THIS is what professionalism is. That is how you deal with your contracts. You can still make a huge amount of money, do it the right way. Of course, sadly… outside Untold and a few others (relatively speaking in footballs universe) think this is vital. As long as we can boast about how much we spent in the bar in front of our ‘mates’ :rollseyes