Adel Taarabt: The player nobody knew 1

The first time I saw Adel Taarabt play was in the closing minutes of a match between West Ham and Tottenham in 2007. He came on with his trailing in the final minutes and, via some beautifully intricate skill, won a free-kick on the edge of the box which Tottenham would score and equalise from. He was seventeen years-old and he was impressive - he had such an obvious abundance of self-belief.

Little did anyone know…

Taarabt left England today and moved on-loan to AC Milan, meaning that he’ll finally get the stage that he’s forever been telling us that he deserves. Tottenham, QPR, Fulham…in his mind, all of those clubs were stepping-stones to the future which he has always believed would eventually be his.

The Moroccan is one of the most frustrating players of his generation and that’s primarily because even though his ability does validate his ambition, his footballing IQ has always stopped him from being the player he should be. He doesn’t know when to pass or when to shoot, and he values the glorification of his own ability over the collective success of his team. How can you trust a player like that in any situation which matters?

One the one hand, the child-like liberty with which he plays is probably what has allowed him to develop such pronounced technical ability, but on the other it’s that same immaturity which has prevented him from becoming an elite player. He does what he wants on a football pitch, and he’s incapable of being a functioning part of any tactical system which isn’t built entirely around him - and to this day, no manager has ever been able to coach that out of him.

Maybe at AC Milan something will change mentally for him, and maybe that environment will provoke a sense of responsibility from Taarabt and he’ll learn to use his ability more economically - but would you really bet on it? He’s incredibly fortunate to have an opportunity at a club like AC Milan, but who knows whether he’ll ultimately be smart enough to know how to take advantage of it.

He’s been in England for nearly seven years now, but he still confuses me as much as he did in 2007.

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