It appears there is a changing culture currently arising in football. One-club men such as Tony Adams and Matt Le Tissier look like a thing of the past, with clubs nowadays at the mercy of complex youngsters with their heads in the clouds. Queens Park Rangers’ influential Moroccan Adel Taarabt portrays this growing trend beautifully.
Paramount to QPR’s brutal plough through the Championship last season – the club were top of the league from November onwards – Taarabt has again shown his prickly side after contract talks broke down. He appears on the brink of a big money move to Paris Saint Germain, but the question is why the awkward timing? Discounting the fact that he can now prove a point to his former side Tottenham Hotspur after a torrid time in north London, surely now is the time for Taarabt to showboat on the biggest stage.
But apparently not – the 22-year-old has demanded a wage increase and it’s not the first time his volatile nature has sparked a clash with his club. His manager Neil Warnock, somewhat a hothead himself, called him the hardest player he’s ever had to work with, and has already witnessed Taarabt demand to be substituted during a match. Taarabt’s supposed petulance is also punctuated with spots of arrogance. When he learned he would not start Morocco’s crucial African Cup of Nations qualifier against Algeria last month, he triggered fury in his homeland by storming out of the team camp.
Later speaking to French newspaper L’Eqipue, Taarabt confirmed that his argument circled around the fact that he considered himself the best foreign-based player in the squad. For a player with little experience aside from Championship football, this seems a grand stage for Taarabt to stand himself on. He completed the melodramatic episode by refusing to play for his country again.
This shows the murky road football is heading down. Amidst allegations of corruption within FIFA, as well as match-fixing storms in Italy and Turkey, football is currently rife with big egos. But don’t take away from Taarabt’s ability, grace and poise on the ball. The playmaker has received somewhat sensationalistic comparisons to Zinedine Zidane and you can see why due to his precise, reliable control and touch. His bursts of pace as opposed to brute strength are something which set him apart from Zidane, but his occasionally unpredictable nature also creates more of a connection.
Because of wayward characters such as Taarabt, and the recent tantrums of Carlos Tevez and Luka Modric, football needs to stamp out the trend of players representing clubs they clearly do not care for anymore. To be fair to Taarabt, his time with Mordic’s current side Tottenham Hotspur will always be a black stain on his wavering reputation. He made just nine appearances in three years at White Hart Lane despite flickers of promise in pre-season and reserve matches, and can be added to a growing clan of players whose careers have stalled after a move to Spurs.
More thought needs to be put into transfers these days. Taarabt has spoken of how much he wants to play in La Liga, whereas he has already purred over the qualities of Arsene Wenger and declared how much he longs to play for Arsenal. Still at a young age, surrounded by riches and adoring fans, Taarabt appears to be caught in a storm.
The complexities of his dual personalities are intriguing to say the least. At times, Taarabt exudes self-confidence, but then shows his Jekyll and Hyde nature by stating that he doesn’t feel QPR’s squad is good enough to survive in the Premier League. So what of his competitive nature? Is this why he wants to leave? Does he not feel his side can beat the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea? It’s a tall order, but these days footballers like Taarabt are further versed in arrogance as opposed to level-headed yet competitive spirit. The entire point of a sport is competition, and it sad to see that a player will write this off completely.
Taarabt’s problem is that he talks too much. His 19 goals last season should not be ignored, but his gross misconduct via his words occasionally put a veil over his ability. Why Taarabt should walk away from a chance to rubber-stamp his ability and compete at the highest level is beyond many – God knows what Warnock thinks in his most inward moments.
Staying at Rangers, a club where he is loved and revered would be the best move for Taarabt. Charlie Adam gained a move to Liverpool after spending a year in the top flight with newly relegated Blackpool, albeit after handing in a transfer request. Roger Johnson of Birmingham also upped sticks only after Birmingham were relegated and moved across the Midlands to Wolves. Evidently, there is still a large market for key players from relegated clubs, if you take the popular and ever so slightly cynical view that Rangers will topple out of the Premier League on first attempt.
Whether it’s consolidation or relegation this season for QPR, Taarabt would blossom in the Premier League. Frankly speaking, so would the league itself. Flamboyant, outspoken foreigners have been an attraction since the early years of the Premier League – Eric Cantona and Paolo Di Canio are two examples – and Taarabt would surely entertain win, lose or draw.
It’s easy to patronise promoted teams – though QPR are no small club and have luxurious foreign investment at their disposal – but seeing Taarabt and his side ruffle some feathers in the top flight would be a joy to behold. A tabloid journalist’s dream, just like his manager Warnock, Taarabt would surely be just as explosive with his mouth as he is with his feet.
With QPR, Taarabt has a huge opportunity to conclude the first chapter of his promising career. From a professional point of view, why Taarabt wouldn’t want to compete in the Premier League is bemusing. Defenders in the highest league have a sense of nous about them – they’ll have come up against cocky showboaters like Taarabt before – but why wouldn’t the Moroccan want to prove the cynics wrong and stay put?
Footballers these days are too eager to jump the gun and hotfoot it to a bigger club. And in a culture where young, lower league talent is sought after and comes only at an extortionate price, this can create dangerous waters in the transfer market. For example, Simon Cox, a free scoring predator with Swindon Town in League One, has barely registered whilst at West Brom. Victor Moses provided fuel for Crystal Palace’s fire in the Championship but since a move to Wigan, starts have been limited and his former tricky, resourceful self is nowhere to be seen.
In regards to the lucrative nature of football these days, players can lose sight of where they are heading in their careers. Of course, it’s only natural for there to be a media furore over Taarabt – his skills and indeed his mouth write their own headlines – but there seems to be a sense of hysteria over young players these days. Give a youngster six months of decent first-team football and they are awash with hyperbolic comparisons, pressure and ultimately, delusion.
Liverpool’s Andy Carroll has hardly kept his nose clean off the field, and £50m for a player with only 11 Premier League goals to his name at the time is a glaring sign of where football is today.
Players need time to settle at a club where they can really prosper. Indeed, Robbie Keane’s very own game of hot potato with transfers seems to have caught up with him. It looks unlikely that Taarabt will stay at Loftus Road, but let’s hope if the inevitable happens, he doesn’t end up like many of Manchester City’s and other clubs’ recent signings – wasted talent that made the wrong move.