Adebayor: Wanting more
With 30 goals in 48 appearances for Arsenal last season, it is little surprise that Emmanuel Adebayor was voted the 2008 CAF African Footballer. The rangy striker tormented defences both in England, Europe and Africa with his pace, skill and aerial prowess.
Having started his career as a teenager with Metz, the Lome-born star moved to Monaco in 2003 and picked up a UEFA Champions League runners-up medal after the French club were defeated 3-0 by Porto in Gelsenkirchen.
Yet, the proudest moment of the 25-year-old's career came in February when he was selected as Africa's footballer of the year, pipping Mohamed Aboutrika and Michael Essien to the award. It was the first time that a Togo international had picked up the honour, and seemed the perfect place for FIFA.com to begin our exclusive interview.
FIFA.com: You were recently voted African Footballer of the Year. Was that the greatest honour of your career so far?
Emmanuel Adebayor: Yes, of course. When I was young I told myself that I wanted to play football, I want to enjoy myself - but once I'd like to have the chance to be the African player of the year. For me, it's like a dream come true. I'm very happy and very pleased, but as you know in football - what you beat, what you win or what you get - you've got it already. So, what am I going am I going to win next? What am I going to achieve next? That's what I'm fighting for now. The African footballer of the year award for 2008 is already gone, it's finished; everyone knows it's Emmanuel Adebayor. Am I going to be able to win it again? I don't know. I just have to give 100 per cent and keep enjoying myself on and off the pitch.
You dedicated that award to your mother. How important has she been to making you the player and person you are today?
I think what I did in Nigeria last month made my mum very happy. She really appreciated it. I think she was one of the happiest mums in the world. You could tell that by her face! For me to give that trophy to her was a very important thing. She gave me a chance. She always told me to believe in myself, to do what I'm doing now, so by talking here (to FIFA.com) is another way of showing that the trophy was for her.
There was a lot of speculation during the summer about your future. Are you glad you stayed at Arsenal?
I'm very happy. I never regret anything. At the moment it is very difficult for the club because we haven't won at lot of games in the league, but I'm still happy to be at Arsenal. It's my desire - it's what I show everyone and it's what I tell everyone. I want to stay at Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger recently admitted that Manchester United are 'untouchable' in the title race. How disappointed are you not to be challenging them more closely?
Yes of course. What we did last season was unbelievable; it was very good. I think last season we played well and we were enjoying our football, but this season, we could have done better. This season everything's gone wrong again. We just have to focus on our jobs and try and finish fourth, which the club and the fans really need, because we cannot see Arsenal without Champions League football next season. We know what we have to do.
What are Arsenal missing at the moment?
Most of our players have been injured. We've missed Eduardo for several months, Tomas Rosicky for about a year, Theo Walcott for three or four months, Cesc Fabregas for almost six months and I've also been injured for two or three weeks. I think if Manchester United had to do without Ronaldo, Rooney, Giggs, Berbatov and Nani, they wouldn't have the same team as they have now - they wouldn't be winning every game. When we get those players back, we'll have a chance of winning something.
Robin van Persie seems to have becoming increasingly important to the club this season. What is he like to play alongside?
I really enjoy it, because he's a great player. He creates space, he scores good goals; so playing with him is always good. I missed playing alongside him last season, when he was injured - and now, injury-free he's doing a good job.
Who is the toughest defender you've played against?
It's Nemanja Vidic. He's a very good player. He knows how to play against strikers. He's very strong and he's ready to give his life away for Manchester United. For me, he's one of the toughest defenders in the league and the best player of the Premier League this season so far. He also scores a lot of important goals for the club - and he saves a lot too!
Turning to Togo, how important is it to you and to the nation to qualify for the World Cup, especially as it's the first to be held in Africa?
When we were at Germany in 2006 it was a dream for the entire country and now we know what it's like, we want to experience it again. We're all motivated - and as players we have to give everything because our qualifying stage is very tough. We've got Cameroon, Gabon and Morocco in our group, but we're going to keep on going - and see what we can achieve. At the very least, we want to go to the African Cup of Nations, but if we manage to get to the 2010 World Cup, which is in Africa, that would be the best thing that ever happened in my life.
After the disappointment of failing to qualify for the 2008 Cup of Nations, do you feel the team is regaining some momentum?
Yes. I've spoken to some of my team-mates in the Togo national team and they're hungry to qualify for the next tournament. As soon as I listen to them, I know how motivated they are. That's a good sign!
Many people believe 2010 could be the year for an African team to go all the way. What is your view and which of the African nations do you believe is best equipped to challenge?
I hope so. In Africa, we have a lot of good countries like Côte d'Ivoire with Drogba, Zokora, Toure, Eboue, Cameroon with Eto'o and the Songs, Nigeria with Kanu, Yakubu, Yobo, Anichebe, not forgetting Ghana and Togo, so we have a lot of countries who could so well. The most important thing is that we have to make that happen once. I don't know if it's going to be 2010, but we all hope it will happen. I do wish that the 2010 World Cup is the best thing to happen on our continent.
What is your main remaining ambition in football?
To win the Premier League with Arsenal.