Sunday evening: Emmanuel Adebayor's Togo exit the Africa Cup of Nations to Burkina Faso. His acute disappointment contrasts with the sense of relief at his club, Tottenham Hotspur, who need him for the Saturday lunchtime Premier League fixture at home to Newcastle United. With Jermain Defoe injured, Adebayor is their only fit senior centre-forward.
Thursday morning: Adebayor is still to leave Africa. André Villas-Boas tried his best to sound relaxed about the situation but it did not take a behavioural expert to detect notes of frustration and exasperation in the Tottenham manager.
"I spoke to him on Monday morning ... I know where he is, I'm not sure if I want to make it public," Villas-Boas said, before admitting that the player remained somewhere in Africa. "We're trying to establish the best flight connections for him. He had issues to take care of after the tournament finished for Togo."
What were those issues? Villas-Boas refused to say. He suggested that, at some point in the week, there was the hope that Adebayor would make it back in time for the training session at 3pm on Thursday but the schedule came to be revised. Now, Adebayor's appearance at Friday's 3pm session is eagerly awaited. "We've allowed Ade to come back for the Friday training session if he can't make it for today's," Villas-Boas said.
He added that he would certainly name Adebayor in his squad for the visit of Newcastle but here is the rub. Adebayor said that he was exhausted after the Burkina Faso defeat – he had shouldered tremendous responsibility as his nation's figurehead – and he must now rack up the air miles, going from Africa's heat to the chill of England, to refocus swiftly on club business. "It's always difficult," Villas-Boas said. "He will not be 100%, for sure, but he is still a player that can make a difference for us."
Adebayor was granted three days off after Togo's defeat and Villas-Boas said that it was up to the player how and where he spent the time. "I don't mess with that," Villas-Boas said. Adebayor is feted as a demi-God in Togo and he has been under pressure to show his face in Africa. But as Tottenham fans pay Adebayor's salary and might wonder why he could not have travelled back a little sooner, it was difficult to escape the feeling that it was all rather needlessly chaotic.
Villas-Boas talked about how the in-form Gareth Bale could continue to play through the middle, as a No10, while the attacking midfielder, Lewis Holtby, has impressed his new team-mates hugely in training. Clint Dempsey, who himself is not due back until Friday's session, after playing for the United States in Honduras on Wednesday, has come to be pressed into service up front but in Defoe's absence, the onus is on Adebayor.
Villas-Boas said that Defoe's ankle ligament damage, which he suffered at West Bromwich Albion last Sunday, would rule him out for "two to three weeks." That is the optimistic reading. It is understood that Defoe is more likely to be out for six weeks, possibly even longer.
It has been a trying season so far for Adebayor, who scored 18 goals last time out for Tottenham, when on loan from Manchester City, but has contributed only three since his £5.5m permanent transfer in August. Adebayor came as an ex-Togo international and so the decision to return to his country for the showpiece tournament in mid-season did not exactly sit well with Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman.
It has not just been the Africa Cup of Nations that has fractured Adebayor's rhythm in club colours. He suffered injuries in the first half of the season and a three-game ban for his dismissal in the 5-2 loss at Arsenal on 17 November. The derby stands as a microcosm of his season. He enjoyed encouraging moments, including the opening goal, only to err with his red-card challenge and, ultimately, disappoint.
Adebayor is hurting after the defeat to Burkina Faso, even if Togo's progress to the quarter-final represented an historic achievement. He muttered darkly about the hard and sandy pitch at Nelspruit's Mbombela Stadium, while he gave a glimpse of his ego in the verbal tirade that he launched at Didier Six, the Togo coach, whose decisions and management style he did not like.
"The coach was not a help," Adebayor said. "Me, I was on the pitch, so I couldn't do his job and mine. I couldn't coach and play. I tried to do my best but he didn't help us."
Villas-Boas described Adebayor as "very extravagant" and he said that his character "often" came across in the dressing room. The challenge now is to harness the anger and the desire, and channel it to Tottenham's ends over the final 13 games of the Premier League season.
"Sometimes you need players with leadership, charisma and personality," Villas-Boas said. "The manager's impact in the preparation of games is a certain amount but in the running of the game, it can be minimal and in those situations, you need players to inspire the others. This is the type of impact that Ade can have on Togo and the teams he has played for before.
"Compared to last season at Tottenham, things haven't gone so well for him, although the team is still doing well so his impact is there. Individually, in terms of goals, it hasn't happened so much. Strikers, especially, live off scoring goals and Ade wants to add to his tally. But I'm sure that in the next three months, he can still have that impact."
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image: © Alfonso Jimenez