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Emmanuel Adebayor must learn from Didier Drogba if Manchester City are ever to hit the heights

He’s been signed as the hitman that will lead Manchester City to the sort of success their wealthy backers expect. But Emmanuel Adebayor should take a leaf out of another African striker’s book if he is to ever truly make the maximum of the potential he undoubtedly has…

Making a point: But Adebayor still has to prove his heart lies with Manchester City's ambitions, not their money

As far as starts go, perhaps few can have too many complaints about Emmanuel Adebayor’s early career at Manchester City.

In the nine Premier League games in which Adebayor has featured this season, the striker has scored five goals, and laid on a further three assists for his teammates.

On paper, then, it is a solid return from the 25-year-old after joining the Eastlands outfit from Arsenal for £25 million during the summer.

As has often been the case with Adebayor in England, however, the positives have been offset by a number of negatives. In no game was that better encapsulated than when he faced his former club earlier in the season.

Throughout the game against his old team-mates, the Togolese international was often at his blistering best.

He tormented the Arsenal players — taking advantage of their seemingly reckless desire to clatter him — but then proceeded to torment their fans after his well-taken goal.

That celebration, running a full 90 yards to gloat in front of those who had spent much of the game abusing him, earned him a three-game suspension after a review by the Football Association.

City, without their leading scorer, subsequently lost their next league game against arch-rivals Manchester United, in a cruel 4-3 thriller.

“I had a bad afternoon against Manchester United because I am sure that if I had played that day then I would have scored a goal,” Adebayor said.

“It was a shame that we lost in added time. United did not deserve to win—a fair result would have been a draw.”

Rather than bemoaning missing out on a chance to add to his goal tally, however, Adebayor should perhaps have been reflecting on his own conduct. His performance against Arsenal helped the team, but his subsequent conduct certainly didn’t.

That just isn’t good enough for a top striker. Continue reading

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November 27, 2009 Posted by | Comment, Sport, World Football | , , , | Leave a comment

Scout Report: Emmanuel Riviere (AS Saint Etienne)

Last time out the focus was Iker Munian, ‘the Spanish Messi’. This week the focus turns to Emmanuel Riviere, who his club hope will quickly become ‘the new Bafitembi Gomis’…

Taking centre stage: Circumstances have thrust Riviere to the fore at Stade Geoffrey Guichard

Position: Striker

Age: 19

Clubs: AS Saint-Etienne

While AS Saint-Etienne were understandably reluctant to sell star striker Bafetimbi Gomis to arch-rivals Olympique Lyonnais during the summer, there were a number of reasons that persuaded the club to relinquish their star player.

The first was the money — €13 million was a not inconsiderable sum, especially considering the striker’s poor form in the previous campaign. That form also contributed to the second reason — St. Etienne had only narrowly avoided relegation in 2009, and French international Gomis had consequently become unsettled. Perhaps the chance to cash in and rebuild was one worth taking.

The third reason perhaps sealed the deal. In Emmanuel Riviere, St. Etienne’s management believed they already had a player capable of quickly inheriting Gomis’ throne.

After all, Riviere had long been touted as a great prospect throughout France. Having grown up on the colony of Martinique, the young striker initially turned heads while making an appearance for his youth team in a national U14 tournament hosted by the world-renowned Clairefontaine academy.

Approached by a number of clubs, Riviere was happy to opt for the most successful in French history. Continue reading

November 24, 2009 Posted by | World Football | , , | 1 Comment

Great Gael Kakuta passes debut test as Chelsea start to dream of future glory

He has been one of the most talked-about young players in world football, for all the wrong reasons. But after an impressive 30-minute debut at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Gael Kakuta underlined exactly why Chelsea had sailed so close to the wind in order to obtain his signature…

We're flying: Kakuta soared at Stamford Bridge under intense pressure

No one can say they weren’t warned.

If anyone had missed the furore surrounding Gael Kakuta that overshadowed the early part Chelsea’s season, Carlo Ancelotti’s comments ahead of yesterday’s game against Wolverhampton Wanderers added another reason why the Frenchman has become one of the most talked about young players in world football.

“He (Kakuta) is a very good talent. He is very young and he can be a player in the future of Chelsea with his quality,” Ancelotti said.

“His character is good, he is a quiet boy, and at that age I have never seen a player with this talent,” he revealed.

Coming from Ancelotti, that is some statement. The Italian has observed some fabulous players in his 30-year career in football.

The fact that Kakuta is the best 18-year-old he has ever seen — just last year he was working with another fabulous teenager, AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato — will only increase the expectation around the young winger.

But the France U19 international has already become used to that.

After all, in September he went from being just a highly regarded member of Chelsea’s reserve team to one of the most notorious players in the world.

With FIFA judging out of the blue that Chelsea had broken the rules in luring Kakuta from French club RC Lens as a 16-year-old, the west London club found themselves forbidden from making signings for two consecutive transfer windows.

Kakuta, portrayed in many places as one of the villains of the piece, was banned from competitive football for four months.

Mentally weaker players would have crumbled under the increased scrutiny. But after a brief period of panic, the club’s 2008 Scholar of the Year soon composed himself.

“I think Kakuta suffered for one or two weeks about the situation and then after that he was better,” Ancelotti said.

“He returned to being quiet and calm and stayed with us to train. Still now he is well.

“It was not so important to speak with him, it was important to train with him and he stayed with the first team in this period.” Continue reading

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Comment, Uncategorized, World Football | , , , | 1 Comment

On the big stage, Thierry Henry failed to handle the high standards his career demanded

He’s always presented himself as the gentleman of world football, despite a couple of previously unsavoury episodes. But after manhandling Ireland out of the World Cup, will Thierry Henry ever again be able to match up to the standards demanded of great players?

Villain of the piece: Henry (c) will forever be remembered for events at Stade de France

It wasn’t the way to win a place at the World Cup, never mind lose one.

Nevertheless, Thierry Henry’s illegal intervention during a closely-fought World Cup play-off between France and Ireland was the decisive act in a tie that deserved much better.

From the player to the referee and even the sport, few came away from the night with any credit.

The valiant Irish players can hold their heads high—but that will be scant consolation considering the devastating manner of their defeat.

It was worse that the pivotal moment came in extra-time, after Robbie Keane had clawed Ireland back onto level terms after an admirable team performance.

With questions of offside in the build up to a free-kick being delivered into the box, Henry looked to have misjudged the ball’s flight—before his hands came to the rescue.

The first contact looked instinctive, with the French No. 12 arguably knowing little about it on a conscious level.

But the second touch with his still-outstretched left arm was clearly deliberate, and set the ball perfectly for him to then slip the ball past the onrushing Shay Given with the outside of his right boot.

William Gallas, barely a yard out, had the simplest of jobs in nodding the ball into the open net.

For some, the fact Henry wheeled away and celebrated the goal was the most distasteful aspect of the whole scenario.

If the incident itself suggested the Barcelona forward was a cheat, then the public way he enjoyed the moment certainly confirmed it.

With referee Martin Hansson turning down Irish players’ prolonged appeals for hand-ball, the goal stood and France held on to book their place in South Africa next summer.

After the game, unsurprisingly all discussion was focused on Henry. Continue reading

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Comment, World Football | , , , | Leave a comment

David Beckham deserves 1000 caps if brings the World Cup back to England

Ever since he relinquished the captain’s armband  — and arguably even before then — David Beckham has been a divisive figure for observers of the England national team. Yet as his playing days draw to close, the current Los Angeles Galaxy star has the chance to achieve something no English footballer has ever managed…

Still the main man: Beckham's influence extends far beyond the football pitch

As happens without fail every four years, World Cup talk is dominating English football.

For the players in and around manager Fabio Capello’s national squad, the focus is on making the plane for South Africa next summer.

For those lucky enough to be all but guaranteed their seat — and there are a few — the focus is on launching a bid to win the big prize on the horizon.

For the Football Association, the situation is slightly different.

While the directors of English football’s governing body are still devoting considerable resources to give  Capello everything he needs to launch a strong challenge next summer, they are also focusing equal attention on launching a successful World Cup bid of their own.

Instead of 2010, the FA is looking to 2018, when they hope they can bring the World Cup back to England for the first time in 52 years.

When England hosted that last tournament, in 1966, Bobby Moore famously lead the Three Lions to their solitary triumph in the game’s biggest tournament.

And hopes are high that, after so many years of hurt, a return of the final to a new Wembley might yield the same famous old result.

That long wait to host, as well as England’s self-proclaimed status as the ‘home of football’ (something that has been deliberately underplayed during campaigning so as not to offend) would seem to give the bid more weight than that of its rivals.

Couple that with the fact it has an unrivalled collection of world-class stadiums and infrastructure to call upon, and, on paper at least, any bid from the sceptred isle would appear to be a winner.

But in many respects, England and the wider United Kingdom is not currently in the best of health. While many other European and world nations are slowly steering their ship clear of recession, the United Kingdom is still waging a seemingly losing battle with high unemployment and floundering industry. Continue reading

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Comment, Sport, World Football | , , , | Leave a comment

Scout Report: Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao)

After Atletico goalkeeper David de Gea, we move across Spain to cast an eye (or even two) over the burgeoning buzz surrounding Athletic Bilbao’s slippery attacker Iker Muniain…

Feet of fury: Muniain has burst onto the scene in Spain

Feet of fury: Muniain (right) has burst onto the scene in Spain

Age: 16

Position: Left or right winger, second striker

Clubs: Athletic Club Bilbao

Bursting on to the scene to become the youngest goalscorer in La Liga history, diminutive Athletic Bilbao prodigy Iker Muniain immediately earned himself the moniker “the Spanish Messi”.

Such comparisions seem to be de rigueur for talented young footballers these days, even if Muniain’s record-breaking goal and ability to play on either wing might more accurately make him “the Spanish James Milner”.

Either way, the boy has some serious talent.

Just 16 and standing barely 5’5” tall, Muniain has nonetheless exploded on to the scene this season in a way that has major clubs across the globe sitting up and taking notice.

The well respected football website, IMScouting, said of Muniain, “it is clear that this young player is a true gem, a genius who is destined for stardom in the near future.” Such praise does not come lightly. Continue reading

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | Leave a comment