Exciting forward

Adebayor hails from Togolese capital Lome, where he was born to Nigerian parents. He experienced the rough side of life in his home city but football offered him a way out, writes Andy Hampson.

Emmanuel Adebayor, a tall and powerful striker, is ready to take on the task of leading the line for Barclays English Premier League Arsenal following the departure of talisman Thierry Henry. He has had problems with indiscipline in the past but now seems to be maturing into one of the most exciting forwards in the EPL.

Adebayor hails from Togolese capital Lome, where he was born to Nigerian parents. He experienced the rough side of life in his home city but football offered him a way out.

“To tell you the truth, I’d probably be a gangster if I weren’t a footballer,” he said. “Most of my friends from when I was young are bad boys. They drink too much, smoke drugs and are involved in crime.”

Adebayor’s rise to fame began when he was spotted at a training camp in Lome by French club Metz at the age of 15. He spent two years in the Metz under-17 side before breaking into the first team in the 2001-02 season, when their campaign ended in relegation. That proved the making of Adebayor, who scored 13 goals in Ligue 2 the following season and was promptly snapped up by AS Monaco.

Monaco brought him to a wider audience and he impressed as the Principality club reached the UEFA Champions League final in 2004. He struck eight times from 31 appearances during the season.

However, he was to wear out his welcome at Monaco, reportedly due to his occasionally boorish behaviour. There were apparently incidents of him missing training and the club were able to cash in January 2006 when Arsenal came in with GBP7 million.

His Arsenal career has been a different story. The goals have not been in plentiful supply but he made himself a hit with club and fans early on with his pace and willingness to work. He proved a good foil for Henry and now the Frenchman has left the Gunners, he is ready to fill the breach having fully acclimatised in the EPL.

He has started the 2007-08 season impressively, scoring two goals in a win over rivals Tottenham and a hat-trick against Derby County.

Adebayor has twice been African Footballer of the Year and helped Togo into the World Cup for the first time with 11 goals in the qualifying campaign for Germany 2006.

Adebayor, who came to England with long-term girlfriend Charity, is by far Togo’s most famous and successful player but he has recently frozen himself out of the international picture due to a row over bonuses. Togo’s first appearance at the World Cup was overshadowed by such disputes and Adebayor decided to withdraw and concentrate on club football this March. In September, he backtracked and made himself available again with African Nations Cup qualification reaching a crucial stage.

“Just because I missed the last two games it didn’t mean I had quit international football,” Adebayor said. “Togo need me and I love my country.”

The most controversial incident involving Adebayor concerned a car crash in France four years ago which injured a 60-year-old woman. French police said the then 19-year-old lost control of his car and hit a vehicle in which the elderly woman was a passenger.

“I was driving from Monaco to Metz, which is a 10-hour trip, but I should have taken a plane instead,” he later admitted. “I am fortunate that I am still alive to tell the tale after the accident, but sometimes a young man has to go through certain experiences to learn things about the realities of life.”

FACTFILE Name: Emmanuel Adebayor Position: Striker Club: Arsenal D.O.B: 26/02/1984 Togo caps: 37 Togo goals: 16 Togo debut: v Zambia, June 2004 Moment to remember

Since joining Arsenal, Adebayor has gradually increased his goal-scoring output. He scored one of his most memorable goals to give the Gunners a 1-0 win at Manchester United last September. The two clubs have developed a fierce rivalry in recent years with some clashes proving rather unsavoury. Adebayor settled this particular encounter late on, when he raced onto a Cesc Fabregas pass and slipped the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak.

Moment to forget

Arsenal’s impressive Carling Cup run last season ended on a low as they were beaten in an ill-tempered final by Chelsea at the Millennium Stadium. Adebayor was sent off after a fracas late in the game, when it was alleged he punched Frank Lampard. In his anger and protesting his innocence, he refused to leave the field. He was banned for three matches for the sending off and an extra game for his actions afterwards.

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