Adel Taarabt finally make Benfica debut nearly four years after signing for the club
"Taarabt's too good for you, Taarabt's too good for you..."
One of true 'what-could-have-beens' in modern football Adel Taarabt has finally made his debut for the Benfica first team this weekend, coming on as a substitute nearly four years after signing with them in June 2015.
The mercurial Moroccan winger has spent most of his time in the Benfica reserves, but went out on loan to Genoa in 2018.
Adel Taarabt started his career at Lens, but was soon picked up by Tottenham Hotspur and earmarked as a hot prospect to watch.
While he never really managed break into the first team at White Heart Lane, he found himself out on loan at Queens Park Rangers, and signed permanently for the West London club in 2010. It was at QPR where he would finally show his true potential.
He was so good that Rangers manager Neil Warnock somehow gritted his teeth, and gave this overweight luxury player who refused to track back the QPR captaincy. And it paid off, as Taarabt would essentially singlehandedly win the 2010/11 Championship.
Taarabt was an utter joy to watch that season. Every week, we would come up against some slightly slow or past-it second tier defender, and absolutely mug them off with a million step-overs. He'd often follow that up by curling it into the top corner from outside the box.
If you needed any more proof of his genius, he even got his own special solo edition of Soccer AM's Showboat.
Taarabt was the ultimate dad-aggravator. He hogged the ball, he never stepped out of the opponent's half, and probably never made a tackle in his life. He always had a bit of a gut, and frequently had a strop about being subbed. But it didn't matter. Players like Adel Taarabt are why we love football.
After QPR got promoted, all eyes were on him to see if he could do it in the Premier League, but it never quite clicked. QPR were a horrendously run club, and Warnock got the sack early on. Taarabt would lose the captain's armband to Joey Barton, and rumours of him leaving constantly circulated. Loan spells at Fulham and Milan would be unsuccessful and after new QPR boss Harry Redknapp criticised his weight, his contract was terminated by mutual consent.
He joined Benfica on June 15th, 2015. And then? Very little. He'd sit in the reserves, only making a few headlines for taking possibly the worst corner of all time. He'd go out on loan to Genoa in 2018, only to return to Benfica's reserves after 28 appearances.
However, on March 30th, 2019 - nearly four years after signing for them - he finally made his debut for Benfica's first team, coming on as a substitute in their 1-0 victory over Tondela. He did not create any chances or have any shots, and only touched the ball 16 times.
Who knows - maybe he'll come good eventually. But if not, we'll always have goals like this.