If you've had to sit through one of Queens Park Rangers' turgid performances this season, you might have wondered why Adel Taarabt wasn't on the pitch. The moody playmaker, once compared to Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini in his youth, had an excellent campaign for AC Milan last season and would clearly be the most talented attacking midfielder QPR could field.
As it turns out, Harry Redknapp isn't picking him because he's fat and sulking. Despite QPR actually looking competent in their 3-2 loss to Liverpool on Sunday, Redknapp was asked about Taarabt post-match, and he decided to launch into a very honest and scathing attack of his playmaker. His criticisms seemed fair, but at the same time, it's worth wondering what Redknapp thought he was getting into by not shipping Taarabt off in the summer.
We'll touch on that more, but first, here's what Redknapp had to say about Taarabt, from Matt Law of the Telegraph.
"He's not injured. He's not fit. He's not fit to play football unfortunately. He played in a reserve game the other day and I could have run about more than he did."
Ouch. If you've seen Redknapp, that's saying something. Also, credit to him for turning to self-deprecation and abandoning his previous arguably sexist insults.
"I can't pick him. I pick people who want to try, who deserve to be at a good football club like QPR, who come in every day and want to work, train and show a good attitude. When he starts doing that, if he ever can do it, maybe he'll get a game."
This seems fair. As bad as QPR have been going forward, it makes sense that a manager wouldn't pick a player who is putting no effort into training when he has 25 others who do work hard.
"I can't keep protecting people who don't want to run about and train, and are about three stone overweight. What am I supposed to keep saying? Keep getting your 60, 70 grand a week and don't train? What's the game coming to?"
And Harry throws in a "What's the game coming to?", which is compulsory if you are a British person over the age of 50 talking about a footballer's bad behavior. Good job making sure you got that in at the end. Wouldn't want you breaking the law.
So it's pretty clear that Taarabt is a huge piece of work and wildly unprofessional, but this has been the case since he was a teenager. Juande Ramos banned him from the Tottenham Hotspur training ground when he was 19. A couple of years later, his captain Joey Barton openly criticized his attitude*. He's talked over and over about how he wishes he would have signed for bigger clubs, or how he was going to sign for a big club, but was made to return to QPR after a loan to AC Milan last season.
What exactly did Redknapp and chairman Tony Fernandes think was going to happen if Taarabt wasn't sold this summer? That he'd get on with training hard and become a valuable asset to the team? That he'd be professional and do his best for QPR because they pay him well? Nothing about Taarabt's career suggests that this was a strong possibility.
There's no defending Taarabt in this situation, but it's impossible to feel bad for QPR either. They could have let Taarabt walk cheaply just to get him out of the dressing room and get his wages off the books, but they went against what would have been the better judgment of anyone remotely familiar with Taarabt by keeping him past the transfer deadline.
QPR continue to lose games and lack creativity, so Redknapp is going to get sacked soon. Ultimately, Redknapp's stubbornness and Taarabt's poor attitude have come together to cost both their careers. Have two footballing personalities ever deserved each other more?
*JOEY BARTON CRITICIZED SOMEONE ELSE'S ATTITUDE