On January 2, 2007, Tottenham Hotspur confirmed they had fought off competition from some top-flight rivals to sign a 17-year-old Moroccan by the name of Adel Taarabt. The stage was set for a long, illustrious career.


Just two years later, Taarabt was packing his bags and on the way out, but that was only the beginning of his decline. Before he was done spiralling out of control, he was stuck playing reserve football in Portugal.


The fact that he has managed to salvage any form of a professional career is incredible, but Taarabt has actually been in the form of his life with Benfica this season. It may have taken him 13 years, but he finally looks settled.

Adel Taarabt,Mark Noble

Taarabt's introduction to a global audience came on March 4, when ​Spurs showed a whole lot of faith in him by bringing him on as an 87th-minute substitute while they were trailing 3-2 to rivals ​West Ham United. They needed some magic, and they knew the teenager could bring that.


When the full-time whistle blew, it was Spurs who were celebrating. They grabbed two late goals to seal a memorable victory, and it soon became clear that Taarabt was the kind of player who could change a game without even trying.


"On the ball I don't think there's another talent like him in England," then-manager Martin Jol said (via the ​Daily Mail).

Adel Taarabt,Simon Davies

"He is a wizard, but he has to learn to play with the other guys. If he learns that, he will be a

[David] Ginola for us because he is so good. I want to play him in the hole, but for an 18-year-old lad he is not covering a lot of ground so that is why we will work on him every day."


There are few quotes which sum up Taarabt quite like that. His talent was second to none, but his work rate and lack of enthusiasm always threatened to destroy him - and they did.


Jol left the club and was replaced by Juande Ramos, but the Spaniard had no time for Taarabt's lack of effort. He banished the teenage Moroccan, and even Harry Redknapp's arrival at White Hart Lane couldn't save him. For Taarabt, the damage had been done. His head was gone.


He was discarded to ​Queens Park Rangers, who were happier to deal with his attitude issues because they needed somebody of his obvious quality. There were plenty of highlight reel moments - the entire 2010/11 season was near-perfection - but also a lot of discipline issues.

Redknapp came out and attacked Taarabt in 2014, admitting (via ​BBC Sport): "I can't protect people who don't want to run and train, and are about three stone overweight. Taarabt is not injured. He's not fit. He's not fit to play football unfortunately."


Taarabt hit back, claiming he was being made a scapegoat. 


"Maybe he expects me to make more tackles. I am not this type of player," he said (via ​The Guardian).


Remember that quote for later.


That was all she wrote in England as Taarabt was shipped off on a permanent deal to Benfica in 2015, but he needed four years, a stint in the reserves and an 18-month loan with Genoa to prove that he even deserved to make his debut.

Adel Taarabt

Working under Ivan Jurić at Genoa, Taarabt rediscovered the flame which had gone out. He learned how to regain control of both his body and his mind, and he proved that to Benfica when he returned.


Nearly four years after joining, Taarabt made his Benfica debut on March 30, 2019, and he has not looked back.


Now a core part of the team, Taarabt has found himself a new home in a more reserved role on the pitch. His new-found discipline has enabled him to put in a shift at both ends of the field. He's the player which every former manager was looking for.

If you watch him play, you'll see the 30-year-old barking orders, directing his teammates and diving into challenges. Oh, and he still loves a nutmeg. Redknapp wanted tackles, and six years later, he's finally getting to see them. Taarabt is that kind of player now.


Given his age, the chance for him to reach the pinnacle of football looks to have passed him by, but he is rebuilding his reputation with each tackle. The streets will never forget the baller that we saw in his youth, but take note of what he's doing now too.


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