The second edition of a series looking at players who have faded from the memories of the modern football fan. Today’s entry looks at Adel Taarabt, the Moroccan magician who once lit up Loftus Road with Queen’ Park Rangers. Now though, Taarabt has endured a nightmare spell with Benfica in Portugal, shipwrecked and lost from football. Let’s take a look what has since happened to the once-electric attacker, and how he became one of Football’s Forgotten Players.
Forgotten Players: Adel Taarabt
Adel Taarabt: The Big Break Goes Sour
Born in Fez, Morocco, Taarabt’s family moved to France when he was very young. He began playing for Lens, playing primarily for their B team, but also making one appearance for the senior side. After two years, though, Taarabt moved to England, signing for Tottenham Hotspur on loan. Despite only making two appearances whilst on loan, Spurs made his signing permanent in 2007. That summer, he began making strides into the first team.
His original intention had been to sign with Arsenal, joining up with Arsene Wenger, hearing their record of improving young players. Damien Comolli, who was a scout at Arsenal and later became Director of Football for Spurs, had convinced the Moroccan to join. However, this would later come to be a move which Taarabt regretted.
Taarabt’s career with Spurs was unspectacular, to say the least, amassing 16 appearances for the London side. It would be with another team in London that we would finally get to see the best of Adel Taarabt.
Career Reignited With The Hoops
In 2009, failing to make a mark on the Spurs team, Taarabt signed for Queens Park Rangers on loan. After an injury cut this initial move short, he was back later that summer to play his first full season of first-team football. This second spell showcased the best the Moroccan had to offer. He scored the goal of the season in the Championship against Preston North End, picking the ball up in his own half, beating a few defenders and firing a long-range effort.
Championship defences were finally experiencing Taarabt’s magical abilities first hand. With his stock rising, other Premier League clubs were beginning to take notice. He spoke of his ambition to play for Europe’s best, playing for Barcelona or Real Madrid seems somewhat quixotic in hindsight. Yet, QPR were able to hold onto their talisman. It was his next season that truly showcased his potential.
Signing for the Hoops permanently in 2010, Taarabt was about to embark on a season that would see QPR promoted to the Premier League as Champions, with him winning the Player of the Season. Signing for £1 million proved the bargain of the year for QPR, as he captained the side to glory in the second division.
Taarabt took time adjusting to the rigours of the Premier League. He claimed in 2014 that Harry Redknapp wanted him to tackle more, but he ‘wasn’t that kind of player’. Like many others with his raw ability, his attitude began to fail him. With his famous dribbles and long-range goals few and far between in the Premier League, the exit door beckoned for him. Despite interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli two years earlier, Taarabt was on his way to London rivals Fulham.
European Expeditions and Forgotten in Portugal
Looking back, it is strange how someone could go from being not good enough in a Fulham side that was relegated, electric for AC Milan in the Champions League, all in one season. Despite scoring four goals in 16 appearances for the Rossoneri, Taarabt did not sign permanently for Milan, instead returning to London. After playing with the likes of Kaka and Robinho, it was a real psychological blow for him.
His return to QPR was a disaster, and after a year rotting in the reserves, Benfica took a chance on him. That is when the Moroccan magician seemingly vanished. A loan spell to Genoa marked a return to Italian football for him, but, it would be four years later that Taarabt made his debut for Benfica, after years of playing for their reserves.
Things have taken a remarkably bizarre turn for Taarabt since his days in England. Despite making only eight appearances for Benfica’s senior side, he has signed a new three-year deal with the Portuguese side. After years in exile from Morocco’s squad, he has made a shock return under new manager Vahid Halilhodzic.
One Last Chance?
Indeed, Taarabt’s international career was no further from controversy. He walked away from the team in 2011 after Erik Gerets left him on the bench in a Nations Cup qualifier against Algeria. He did, however, go back on that decision, but was later omitted from the set-up by Rachid Taoussi.
With Taarabt now entering his thirties, what should have been his best years are now likely behind him. The Moroccan is one of many players to have an undeniable quality on the ball, but to also suffer from ill-discipline. There are two ways a player’s career can go, greatness or obscurity. Sadly, after showing the potential to be a footballing great, his career has faded into the latter.