Tosin Adarabioyo: ‘In Five Years I’d Like to Be Man City Captain. It Can Happen’
Tosin Adarabioyo may be on loan again from Manchester City but the 22-year-old remains focused on the boyhood dream. “In five years’ time I’d like to be captain of Man City and have won the Premier League and the Champions League. Definitely it can happen,” he says.
Here high ambition is married to a recognition of the hard yards required to reach the top. Sitting in plush seats at The Mere hotel in Cheshire, Adarabioyo can point to the decision to sign for a season at Blackburn Rovers after spending the previous campaign on loan at West Bromwich Albion.
Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend
“I just felt like I needed to go out there and get some more games and prove what I can do,” the centre-back says. “My aim has always been to get back to City and be a main player in that team. I felt I needed to go out again because last season I was predominantly playing right-back. I didn’t actually get to show what I can do.”
At West Brom he played 36 times including the closing minutes of the Championship play-off semi-final second leg against Aston Villa, Dean Smith’s side progressing on penalties. But instability at West Brom meant Adarabioyo had two managers in 2018-19 – Darren Moore and James Shan – and the experience was not the best.
“It was up and down,” he says. “I was playing out of position: right-back. I didn’t really enjoy that. That’s not where I play best but I learned a lot there.””.
This contrasted, Sterling argued, with how another City player, Phil Foden, was written about in the same publication when buying a “£2m” house for his mother to “set up a future”.
This season has been plagued by the racist abuse of footballers. Those targeted include Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reading’s Yakou Méïté. Adarabioyo is clear when asked whether the problem has eased since Sterling’s intervention.
“I wouldn’t say it made any difference,” he says. “I haven’t seen much of a change. If anything in recent months it’s got worse. You’ve just got to deal with it however you feel best.
“ Some people want to speak out about it, which I think is the right way to go about it. You have to speak out and have your opinion, try to get rid of racism. Other [players] just want to get on with the game.”
Adarabioyo’s City debut came at 19 under Guardiola’s predecessor, Manuel Pellegrini, in a 5-1 FA Cup defeat at Chelsea in February 2016. Pellegrini selected three other 19-year-olds – Bersant Celina, David Faupala and Aleix García plus Manu García (18) – in protest at having to play on a Sunday before flying to Ukraine to face Dynamo Kyiv the following Wednesday.
Adarabioyo ensured Diego Costa had a difficult match but did not feature again that season. The following year there was an 89th-minute EFL Cup debut against Swansea and a Champions League cameo (30 minutes) before his full debut in the competition, a 1-1 draw with Celtic at the Etihad Stadium. In 2017-18 there were four appearances – two each in the EFL Cup and Champions League – but the final minute of the 2-1 defeat by Basel on 7 March 2018 was Adarabioyo’s last action under Guardiola.
Adarabioyo had been an outstanding prospect in City age-group teams, playing for the under-18s at 14, and made his debut for England at under-16 level. Yet when Guardiola failed to buy a central defender to replace Vincent Kompany, Adarabioyo was still allowed to join Rovers. The manager has since lost Aymeric Laporte to a long-term knee problem, while injuries and form have hampered John Stones.
Guardiola, has not recalled Adarabioyo and the player is unsure of his future. “I’ve not really had much contact with them as of yet. There is a loans manager, Joleon Lescott. He comes out and watches some games, sees how I’m doing and gives feedback. If that’s what they want [to return to City], I’ll be ready.”
When his contract expires in summer 2021 Adarabioyo would be delighted to extend his stay, though his Rovers performances may attract suitors. Signed by Tony Mowbray in July, Adarabioyo has made 18 appearances after his start to the season was hampered by injury.
“I had a tear in my quad. I missed a fair few games but I’m enjoying my time [now]. I’m playing well and getting a lot of minutes. The Championship is tough but enjoyable.”
Adarabioyo adds with a smile: “Obviously it’s a lot of men kicking the ball forward on to your head. I’ve got to deal with that.”
Which is he is doing impressively, Mowbray recently commenting that a defender who is a 6ft 5in ball-player of the City school will harness his talent if he remains grounded.
Adarabioyo’s favourite players when growing up in Manchester point to his own penchant for playmaking. “Patrick Vieira, Ronaldo, Zidane, Steven Gerrard – I liked the way they played,” he says. “I enjoyed growing up in Whalley Range. It was nice – my brothers used to play football all day in the streets.”
Adarabioyo, the youngest of three brothers, was spotted by City aged five. “I was at Chorlton Sports, a local team I’m sure is not around any more. I got picked up and trained at Parrs Wood high school, on the astro, then I moved to Whalley Range high school where there’s five-a-side pitches.”
On Saturday Rovers travel to Sheffield Wednesday. Mowbray’s team are 13th, five points from a play-off place, and won November’s reverse fixture 2-1, Adarabioyo’s equaliser his first senior goal. “It can turn at any time in this league,” he says, “so we just need to get the results.”
The Guardian Sport