Manolito Adebayor at AS
The Santiago Bernabéu is already chanting his name, and if Manolito Adebayor hasn’t won you over yet, this interview might help. In it, we find out that he cut off his dreadlocks because Real Madrid is a serious institution, that he considers Fernando Morientes an older brother, and that Mesut Özil reminds him of the importance of being on time. I love Manu’s mature, team-oriented and unselfish attitude (as well as his admiration for Raúl), which really comes out in his words (and hopefully in my translation too!).
Let’s see if we can help him with his dream of winning a title so he’ll have something to fill his little hands with.
Note: scroll down all the way for a “muy original” picture at the end.
I was born happy. No one could be happier than I am now. Here, I’ve fulfilled a dream and I feel useful once again.
Why did you change your look?
I had dreadlocks for three years, and when I got the opportunity to play in Madrid, I knew that I would have to cut them off. I didn’t see myself triumphing here with them. This hairstyle is more adequate for an institution like Madrid. I’m doing everything possible to integrate. Here, it’s also warmer than it was in England.
How are you feeling?
There’s a great atmosphere. Everyone has treated me very well. I ask myself, “how can I return this wonderful treatment?” Well, by training as hard as I can and giving it everything I’ve got. Only in that way will I be able to properly express my gratitude.
What was your childhood like?
It wasn’t easy. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon (fun fact – in Spanish, it’s diamond spoon) in my mouth. It was very difficult. We all know how poor Africa is. I’m from Togo, one of the poorest countries on the continent. I took a risk going to France at the age of 15 and everything turned out like a fairy tale. I give thanks to God, because He’s always been by my side. Each time I go through a difficult moment, He helps me. My childhood wasn’t the worst, but it wasn’t easy either. Now I am a professional footballer and I play for the biggest team in the world.
What did your parents to?
My parents were Nigerians who emigrated to Togo. That’s my country. My father was a bank manager, and my mother had her own small business selling things. In 2005, my father passed away. It’s a typical African history. I don’t regret anything in my past and I’m proud to be African.
[A couple of questions about how he went to France, then the move to Monaco, where he was a teammate of Fernando Morientes.]
How did Morientes treat you?
I have a good feeling with him. He was my professor. He told me that he understood what I was going through, because the same thing had happened to him. He told me to never give up, to keep moving forward and that I had everything I needed to triumph. After we made it into the final of the Champions, the prince of Monaco invited us to his house to congratulate us. That day, Morientes took me aside and told me that I was fantastic, that I was going to get far and I would play in a bigger club. I felt that his words had come from the heart and I adopted him as an older brother.
Morientes talked about how you asked him about Madrid.
Of course! The first thing I asked him was if he could get me Raúl’s shirt! (Laughs). For me, it was a dream to be with someone who knew what it was like to play with Madrid. I think I overwhelmed him with questions. I asked him what it was like to win the Champions; what it was like to play in Madrid; what Zidane and Figo were like… I asked him to invite Raúl to one of our games and he did. One day, I ran into Raúl in our locker room. I couldn’t believe it! From that day, I began to fall in love with Madrid. I had a lot of affection for Morientes. He was very modest, he cleaned his own boots and shirts. He became my idol, an example to follow.
Which Real Madrid player did you like the most?
Zidane made me dream. After him, Raúl of course. He always scored goals and did his part. And not only during one or two years, but for more than 10. And he continues to do so. I’m sure we’ll see each other soon. I would like to talk with him.
Have you spoken with Zidane?
We share the same boot brand and I’ve met him. He knows how much I admire him.
With Monaco, you lost in the final of the Champions to Mourinho’s Oporto.
The world found out who Mourinho was from that final. It was a golden opportunity that we let slip by. Mou came out with a different system, surprising us. It was very hard to accept.
And now Mourinho can make you win.
I hope so. That’s why I came here. I’ve made a name for myself and I’ve played on the top level for many years, but my hands are empty. For me, the most important thing is winning titles. When I went to Arsenal, I never imagined that I wouldn’t win anything. Here, I have to do everything possible for that to happen. We have a lot of possibilities in the Copa del Rey. We also have possibilities in the Champions, but that’s further away. In the Liga, there’s a seven-point difference and it’s not easy, but it’s not over yet. Imagine if Barça fails against Sevilla and we win everything including el clásico. We could make up six points.
[Talk about his time at Arsenal.]
Tell me about the tragedy you lived through with the national team.
It was the worst moment of my life. It’s something that made me grow up. Now I know that in the blink of an eye, you can lose your life. For me, the most important thing is to enjoy life. I was born happy and now I’m even more so. I could be dead and instead I’m alive and playing in Madrid. What else could I ask for? Nothing.
Do you speak with Kodjovi Obilale, the goalkeeper who’s now in a wheelchair?
In Africa, we call our friends “brothers.” He was my brother before that, but all of us who were on that bus have gotten even closer since the tragedy. Obilale and I speak every day and anything he needs from me, he has. What happened to him could have happened to me. He was only two rows ahead of me and now he can’t even walk.
You no longer play with your national team. Will you return one day?
At the moment, my decision has not changed. It’s difficult to understand how it’s possible that my Federation doesn’t help Obilale after he received three bullets while representing his country.
That was your worst moment. Was the best when Madrid called you in January?
Yes, but it was also very stressful. When they told me that City and Madrid had agreed on terms and that I had to travel to Madrid, I couldn’t eat for 48 hours due to stress. I wasn’t even playing with City and Madrid signed me. I thought it was a joke until I arrived at Valdebebas and I met Mourinho and Zidane. That’s when it hit me and I started believing.
And the cheesy posing starts… now.
What did Mourinho tell you?
To do the best I could, to enjoy playing, to play as I know how and to make an effort. I’m no longer a 16-year-old boy who needs instructions. I know how to be a professional.
Who has helped you the most?
Lass. I helped him when he came to Arsenal. I showed him where the clothes were kept and the rules of the club. He’s returned the favor by doing the same for me here. And Benzema as well, because he’s a great guy and we share a past in France. Ramos, Cristiano… everyone. Özil reminded me of how important punctuality is [jajaja!!!] and we work out together in the gym.
Benzema has scored a lot of goals since you arrived.
When I arrived, I said I was here to help Benzema, not hurt him. As long as I can stay here, I don’t mind if Karim scores 100 goals and I don’t score any. We’re here to win titles. I want the Champions, I want to win and individual things don’t matter to me. Give me a contract saying that we’ll win La Décima 2-0 with two goals from Benzema and I’ll sign it.
Have you given him advice?
I told him that in football, one day you can be the hero and the next day the most criticized one, so enjoy football. He’s working very hard and we all have a lot of faith in him. He arrives early for the training sessions to work out in the gym.
Who do you connect the best with on the field?
I don’t have any preferences. I have good discussions with Xabi because he speaks English well. I feel comfortable with Lass and also with Özil, Di María and Benzema.
Does Özil remind you of Zidane?
They have similarities. He’s a great player. He has a unique way of looking at the game. He has two eyes on his face and two more on the back of his head.
Have you realized that you’ve already won over the Bernabéu?
I realized it, I hear the stadium chant my name. It’s important to feel loved.
Do you like being called Manolito? [Hmmm, no questions about Adenabor?]
I’m an African man, I don’t care what I’m called. I know that Manolito is said with affection and shows friendship, so I like that. In France, I was called Nwanko Kanu.
Do you think you’ll still be here past June?
I hope so. I will do everything possible to stay here the maximum amount of time possible.
This picture… I cannot even begin to find words for it!!!