Great things were expected from Emmanuel Adebayor when he took the Premier League by storm following his move to Arsenal from Monaco back in 2006. But, after unsuccessful spells at Man City, Real Madrid (on loan), Tottenham and Crystal Palace, the Togo international’s career nosedived and he was released as a free agent last summer.
Now, after the 32-year-old showed he can still make an impact at the African Nations Cup despite his side finishing bottom of Group C, Turkish surprise package Istanbul Basaksehir offered him a lifeline, and an 18-month contract.
Adebayor had long been linked with a move to the three Istanbul giants (Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, Besiktas) but a move to Basaksehir came as a huge surprise in Turkey.
The club have shocked many this season with their incredible performances, and currently sit second in the table two points behind Besiktas having lost just once this season (away to Fenerbahce) — they have also conceded the fewest goals (12) and only Besiktas, Galatasaray and Fenerbahce have netted more.
Basaksehir sent head scout Alioum Saidou to monitor the striker’s performances in Gabon and were impressed by what they saw.
“Saidou is a former Cameroon international and already knew Adebayor. He approached Ade and told him about our project,” the club’s executive director Mustafa Erogut told ESPN FC. “Adebayor was convinced to join us after holding talks with our club president. He was impressed with our vision and he himself wanted a new challenge.”
But Basaksehir have not signed Adebayor as a vanity project. They will not be paying astronomical wages for the striker solely based on a name he built up in his 20s. The club have a reputation for being calm, measured and plan for the long term; they are not associated with paying over the odds for players, in fact they are one of the lowest spending sides in the top half of the table.
Adebayor will have a clearly defined role in the team and was the type of player that manager Abdullah Avci had identified going into the transfer window. The manager had planned to sign a striker with similar attributes to Mehmet Batdal — tall, powerful, good in the air — and, not only does the former Arsenal striker fit the bill, in terms of quality he’s a cut above his competition. They certainly did their homework.
“We consulted with his former clubs, in particular his former manager at Crystal Palace Alan Pardew who gave him a glowing reference,” Erogut said.
“Of course there is a PR element, it gets people talking about Basaksehir but that is not the reason behind us making the transfer. Avci is the Warren Buffett of transfers, he spots an opportunity when a player’s price is low. He saw the potential in Adebayor. The striker will fit into the team and is the kind of player he was after going into the transfer window.
“Ade was signed primarily for footballing reasons: he fits into the plan; he also happens to bring media attention to the club.”
Erogut also revealed that Adebayor’s 18-month contract includes performance bonuses to be paid if the club reach Europe — a distinct possibility if they continue their run.
“Adebayor wants a challenge and we made sure that he will be rewarded for results,” he added. “He has performance related clauses and bonuses in his contract for achievements like reaching the Europa League and Champions League. The transfer benefits Ade and benefits us, as far as we are concerned it is win-win.”
Basaksehir do not have a fanatical fanbase like their noisier Istanbul cousins but the striker will command huge respect from his teammates and can become a local hero if he plays his cards right.
Adebayor has played at some of the biggest clubs in the world but has yet to win a league title. It would be the ultimate footballing irony if he were to be finally crowned champion at a club nobody ever expected would lift the Super Lig.
Eren Sarigul covers Turkish football for ESPN and Turkish-football.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ErenvanBasten.