It's been fairly easy to tell when there's a transfer window coming up over the last year or two - just keep an eye out for the slew of people crawling out of the woodwork to have a go at Emmanuel Adebayor.
The Togolese striker should, by rights, be one of the top free agents that Premier League teams are looking to pick up this January - and yet it's pretty quiet on the rumour front. If you do a quick search for him on any news aggregator, the majority of the pieces you'll find are (still) speculating on the terms of his exit from Spurs, or reporting on his latest purchases. He danced in a jewellery shop recently, which was, apparently, news.
His media portrayal is bordering on bizarre, getting constant pelters for still earning money from Spurs despite being cut loose by the club, or as most people would call it, 'being paid the money that he was promised by the club in his contract.' There's a strong sense that the focus on his purchases is an attempt to paint him as greedy - which is less and less surprising if you widen the scope of the conversation a little.
Adebayor may be one of the more frequent victims of this, but this summer was a stark reminder that - consciously or unconsciously - the media pick out black footballers for their 'greedy' narratives. Adebayor has been dogged by the tag for years, and there were long editorials calling Raheem Sterling a disgrace for his 'greed' in wanting a move to Manchester City. As it happened, he'd turned down big money to stay at Anfield and seemed genuine in his desire to go to City to win trophies. Ultimately, the truth didn't matter - he was 'greedy'. Saido Berahino, the same, and so on and so forth back through time.
If it's not 'greedy', it's 'lazy' - another descriptor disproportionately applied to black players in the media. That exact wording is beginning to fade out of use, but the sentiment's still there. If you take a list of the players most often praised for being 'hard-working', you'll find yourself with a piece of paper incredibly well-stocked with white mediocrity. It's not a change in attitude, it's a change in the way the attitude's expressed - by omission rather than targeting. It might 'just' be media talk, but it's impossible to convincingly argue that the undeserved tags applied to Adebayor haven't affected the way he's seen by potential clubs now.
There's oceans more to discuss on the subtle (and not-so subtle) coding and micro-aggressions in sporting media, but it's a topic which demands much more depth and nuance than it can receive in this column (and, indeed, probably deserves a more knowledgeable writer to do it), so we'll leave it there for now and move onto Adebayor's future in English football.
A man who would be the third-highest active Premier League goalscorer if he returned to the league is just sliding under the radar. So let's bring him to the fore.
Speaking to a source inside his camp this week confirmed reports that he'd prefer to come to a London club for family reasons - and given that Adebayor was in the capital last week to listen to some options, it's fairly clear to see there's interest in a player who's been training hard away from the scrutiny of the English media in Accra and Lomé to make his Premier League comeback.
From the outside looking in, Watford appear the most keen - but the emergence of Troy Deeney and the spectacular Odion Ighalo as a Premier League-class strike partnership mean that any move Adebayor made in that direction would either disrupt the partnership or leave him as backup. Neither of those are win-win solutions.
West Ham are a truly interesting proposition though, and even more so of late with their ever-worsening injury crisis in attack. Andy Carroll has been a shadow of his Newcastle self when he's had to lead the line, and someone with the power and dynamism of Adebayor could go a long way to breathing new life into a team who now haven't won in six straight games - scoring three goals in that time.
Chelsea are, of course, the outside bet. The long shot. But with Diego Costa struggling for anything even remotely resembling form and Radamel Falcao being...well, being Radamel Falcao, a short-term deal for a proven top flight goalscorer - who's desperate to get the four goals he needs to hit triple-figures in the Premier League - could be exactly what the doctor ordered for Jose Mourinho and co.
What will actually come next for Adebayor, possibly he's not even certain yet. But one thing's for sure - it's going to be worth watching one of the Premier League's underappreciated greats.
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