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Adebayor hits new heights

Published: Friday 9 November 2007, 8.56CET
Emmanuel Adebayor's excellent form for Arsenal FC has gone a long way to ensuring Thierry Henry has hardly been missed and the giant striker is proving the perfect figurehead for an exciting young side.
Adebayor hits new heights
Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor ©Getty Images
Published: Friday 9 November 2007, 8.56CET

Adebayor hits new heights

Emmanuel Adebayor's excellent form for Arsenal FC has gone a long way to ensuring Thierry Henry has hardly been missed and the giant striker is proving the perfect figurehead for an exciting young side.

Emmanuel Adebayor's excellent form last season was one reason why Arsenal FC manager Arsène Wenger felt the time was right to sell Thierry Henry. As the Togo striker takes English football by storm, Wenger's decision appears vindicated. Already the 23-year-old has scored six times in the Premier League, only two less than last term, and the giant striker is proving the perfect figurehead for Arsenal's exciting young side.

What has Arsène Wenger brought to your game?

A lot of humility, lots of wise words. He's helped with my movement. He told me I had good mobility and now my vision has improved, my running off the ball, running into space to help me score more goals. He's definitely helped with my finishing. I used to score most of my goals by cutting in from the flanks; now I can go for goal through the middle as well.

Which other coaches or players were important for you?

The player for me is [Nwankwo] Kanu. I met him not long ago. He was my idol, the idol of Africa, ambassador of Africa, and the player everyone in Africa loves. He's had a wonderful career: the African Ballon d'Or, the Champions League, the Olympics - he's won it all. The coach would be Francis De Taddeo, at [FC] Metz. He was a director of the club when he spotted me in Sweden – I was playing in a youth tournament for Togo. He saw I had potential and offered me a contract there and then. I was only 15 and it was hard for me, but he made me understand that one day I'd become a great player. He also gave me the best piece of advice: to keep my feet on the ground and stay how I am – not to get big-headed.

Is the mentality of players in Africa different to Europe?

Yes, the difference is enormous. I came to Europe very young so I didn’t spot it immediately. I still had a boy's mentality. But when I turned professional [at Metz], that's when I found it difficult to adapt. They ask a lot of you in Europe. In Africa, you play a match, you try to win. Then you try to win the next one, and the one after that. There isn't too much pressure because there isn't too much at stake. In Europe there is. Here, you have the press shouting at you, the coaches shout at you, everyone shouts at you – even other professionals criticise you. But after a while, you get used to it and you enjoy it. When you come here, you want to enjoy the game. It's the only way that players want to progress. We're all born the same, but from the age of 12 players are more developed in Europe – they're already training with clubs, which isn't the case in Africa.

Where does your name 'Sheyi' come from?

It's Nigerian. My parents come from Nigeria and they call me 'Olou A Sheyi'. It means 'God has created him'.

How do you feel when you score a goal?

I love to see the ball hit the net and the net shake. I love to hear the sound it makes as it hits the net and the immediate sound of the supporters. It hits your ears and stays there. This is what motivates me, hearing the fans.

Do you have a favourite goal?

Yes. The one I scored against Manchester United [FC] at Old Trafford last season when we won 1-0.

The best and worst moments of your career so far?

The best, when I toured Africa [with Togo] at 18, won the [French] Under-17 championship, helped my team [Metz] get promoted to the first division, played for Metz, played for Monaco and helped them get to the [2004] Champions League final … I was voted best player in the French second division … All these things are good moments in football and they have gone straight to my heart. As for the worst, there aren't that many. In fact there are two. The first one is getting sent off in the semi-final of the League Cup in France, playing for Metz against [FC] Sochaux-Montbéliard in 2003. The second was in Cardiff against Chelsea in February. My reaction to being sent off [he refused to leave the field] was wrong and I said sorry to all the people involved. The people who know me, know I am not like that. I did it because I was really upset, but again I'd like to say sorry.

Do you have any souvenirs you're especially fond of?

Yes, a medal I won with Metz. It's the first thing I won in Europe and for me it was the start. It triggered my career.

When not playing, do you watch football or escape it?

I can't escape the ball. I love it. So on holiday, I am not really on holiday: I'm always playing with friends. It's impossible for me to go without playing for more than three days. I don't really like watching – I always want to be taking part.

This is an abridged version of an article that appears in the latest edition of Champions, the official magazine of the UEFA Champions League. To subscribe, click here.

Last updated: 09/11/07 11.41CET

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