CELEBRATING ADEL TAARABT

A large chunk of cash was just about to appear in the bank accounts of QPR and Spurs, but was the Premier League close to missing out on someone special?

One of my favourite things about football writing is the power to capture a moment in time and preserve it to look back upon in the future. That doesn't necessarily mean crystallising the merits of a player that defines a generation or lavishing praise on the best club in world football. Sometimes, you just have to pay tribute to someone before it's too late.

This might be the last chance to laud Adel Taarabt before circumstance takes him elsewhere. At the time of writing*, he is a Queen's Park Rangers player. Soon, he may instead be turning out for Paris Saint-Germain. If that happens, he will surely be forever typecast as a player who rejected the opportunity to prove himself in the Premier League. Understandable, but a pity nevertheless.

Taarabt has been described variously as a "mercurial Moroccan" (Sky Sports) or a "temperamental midfielder" (BBC) in recent weeks, two descriptions which neatly summarise most English fans' opinions of the reigning Football League Player of the Year. Because, despite that accolade, the majority still define the man by his shortcomings. 

Taarabt's glorious past season in London was continually punctuated by negativity - question marks being raised over his ability to influence games at the highest level or a perceived lack of team ethic. They may be valid concerns and these voices will grow louder if he pitches up shortly in Paris, but they also fail to award proper credit to a season of majesty. The second division of English football rarely glimpses a player quite like Adel Taarabt. This is my attempt at recognition where others seek to criticise.

How to define a truly great individual year? 

An impressive showreel? Taarabt's catalogue of curled long-range efforts from the edge of the area last season is the stuff of dreams for video-streaming websites. Defenders either stood off or got too close. Either way, a drop of a shoulder and the ball was quickly flying into the top corner.

A single moment of jaw-dropping brilliance? Coventry City thought they had Taarabt under wraps as he stood over the ball close to the touchline halfway inside their half. He didn't even have to move from that position in order to deliver the Championship's best assist of the season. A single swing of his right leg and the outside of his boot sent the ball curling into the area for Wayne Routledge to run onto. Touch to control, touch to finish, a knockout blow from nowhere that encapsulated, if any single moment possibly could, why Queen's Park Rangers deserved to be champions.

Taarabt wasn't the only reason and his importance was overplayed by those who called Rangers a one-man team last season. This was success built on solid foundations, tireless work rate and no little brute strength. But Taarabt was clearly the spark and perhaps the most effective demonstration of his magnificent contribution to a title-winning team was, paradoxically, his failure.

Not just because he failed so infrequently that the remainder of his season must have been successful, but because the teams that stopped Taarabt last season often only did so due to meticulous planning based solely around his attacking threat. Entire gameplans were adapted when facing Queen's Park Rangers to seek prevention of space outside the penalty area. The season was still young when enough evidence had built up to render this approach almost inevitable for most sides.

Sometimes it worked. And supporters of the clubs that managed to nullify Taarabt last season may have been left unimpressed by a player long marked out as a show pony. There were more than enough, however, for whom it didn't work in the slightest and detractors in these ranks had to resort to the assertion that this was a player who would subsequently fail in the Premier League.

If that happens, so be it. But if he opts to head elsewhere, not everyone in this country will feel that Taarabt still owes English football a demonstration of his talent. Some of us have already seen it in abundance and, at any level of the game, it is difficult tire of a player with the ability to make supporters gasp with astonishment.

Whatever Adel Taarabt's next move may be, his past twelve months were certainly worth celebrating.

* Update - within hours of publishing QPR issued a statement to confirm Taarabt was staying.

David is the editor of the quite brilliant theseventytwo.com and can be found on Twitter here

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