It’s been a season of footballers breaking records they – and we – didn’t previously know existed. On Sunday, Wayne Rooney was surprised and subsequently underwhelmed to be informed he had broken Thierry Henry’s record for most Premier League goals for one club (“What does it mean to you, Wayne?” Probably not as much as scoring the only goal at Anfield, fella) while Mesut Ozil has had ‘records’ claimed on his behalf by click-hungry websites for a) most consecutive PL assists and b) most PL assists in a calendar year. Thankfully, we can all now forget about Jamie Vardy’s record until somebody approaches it without caution next season.
But when you read that Emmanuel Adebayor is motivated to find an English club by the prospect of beating Didier Drogba’s record for goals by an African in the Premier League, you should believe it. This is a proper record that would deserve proper respect on a continent of over a billion people. It would not recognise achievement over an arbitrary period of time, but would be a legacy that could conceivably stand for the next 20 years. If you doubt that pride at being Africa’s best is a massive motivation, witness Yaya Toure’s tantrum at losing out on the African Footballer of the Year accolade for the first time in five years. This matters.
Adebayor won that award in 2008 while Drogba claimed it twice; the Togolese will never now surpass him in that particular list, but he does have the opportunity to become Africa’s leading goalscorer in the Premier League. He is currently only eight goals behind the former Chelsea striker, whose goalscoring record is remarkably similar to the much-maligned Adebayor. His 96 goals in 230 games is almost identical to Drogba’s 104 goals in 254 games. If that surprises you, it is because the myth of Adebayor being lazy, greedy and incompetent has become received truth. Even Troy Deeney – previously jailed for kicking a man in the head during a brawl – recently called him a “bad egg”.
‘Tottenham face paying towards Emmanuel Adebayor’s £100,000-per-week wages even if striker seals January move,’ is the latest Adebayor headline on MailOnline, while elsewhere on the website, there is talk of him having ‘baggage’. If the baggage is a record of a Premier League goal every 2.4 games, that is surely baggage worth checking in.
Forget the wages (still being paid by Tottenham, lest you accidentally go three days without being reminded of this fact), forget the amusing tales of waiting for a sign from God before he agrees a move (God apparently saved him from Villa; clever God) or the ju-ju accusations levelled at his family, forget the stories of Adebayor merrily turning up to train with Tottenham’s kids with a massive grin on his face; Adebayor has been a consistently excellent striker when motivated.
He was brilliant enough at Arsenal to earn a £25m move to Manchester City, initially good enough in Manchester to secure a loan move to Real Madrid that Jose Mourinho wanted to make permanent, wonderful in a loan spell at Tottenham to earn them a top-four place and himself a lucrative contract, 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. 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.
“You want to bring in a quality player and so therefore you can’t dismiss anyone. It is a very, very small market for us so Adebayor is in that group,” said Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew this week. “He’s a dangerous world player. For whatever reason there has been a fall-out at Spurs but he remains a player that can have great impact and would improve us.”
And that should really be the only question to be asked of a footballer whose list of crimes basically boils down to ‘taking his wage’. Is he better than Connor Wickham, Marouane Chamakh, Dwight Gayle and Fraizer Campbell? Even nine months after he last played competitive football, the answer is probably yes. Could he improve a Palace side that creates more chances than Manchester United but sits 17th in the ‘goals scored’ chart? Again, yes.
One record he would almost definitely claim is the first Palace striker to score a goal from open play this season. From there, the African record would surely be a cinch.