Will Tottenham rue the one that got away?

If there is one player in the Championship capable of stealing the limelight away from Craig Bellamy and Cardiff City, it is Queens Park Rangers’ Adel Taarabt. Rangers boss Neil Warnock signed the Moroccan international on a permanent basis from Tottenham Hotspur this summer and believes he found one of the summer’s best buys. Despite being hailed as the new Zinedine Zidane, Taarabt failed to impress at White Hart Lane since his move from Lens in 2007. Will Spurs miss this supremely gifted player and purveyor of fine goals whose skills were once described by Harry Redknapp as “frightening?”

The 21-year old playmaker netted seven times during a season long loan for the Loftus Road outfit last season and the club were delighted to sign him on a permanent deal for an initial fee of £600,000. Tottenham paid £3 million for the youngster three years earlier after recommendations by Damien Comolli. On arrival the player’s agent Rudy Raba had this to say, “He is exceptional, he is one of the most talented young players in France, perhaps the most.” However it proved difficult for Taarabt to live up to his illustrious billing. In a handful of substitute appearances for Spurs he showed an abundance of skill and flair but no end product in the fast paced and physical Premier League. Yet successive managers from Martin Jol to Harry Redknapp noted his breathtaking ability.

The mercurial Taarabt developed a reputation for being rather temperamental. Despite impressing during two loan spells at Rangers his playing chances were restricted under Paul Hart, whose tactics were resentfully received by the Moroccan. But a player who is confident of his own dribbling, passing and creative abilities but by his own admission dislikes defending is unsuitable for a relegation scrap. His standing at White Hart Lane was not enhanced by comments he made on departure. He told the Evening Standard, “The biggest mistake was to sign for Tottenham and not to go to another club when I first came over,” his first choice being Arsenal.

Spurs fans could be forgiven for thinking they had managed to offload a fanciful midfielder whose elaborate playing style merely matched his inflated ego. Taarabt, however, has excelled so far this season, inspiring Rangers to three wins and a draw. He has done so without compromising his artisan playing style featuring countless Cruyff turns, mazy runs, crossovers, flicks and speculative long distance shots. He has been in scintillating form, adopting the role of the side’s main creator. On the opening day of the season he scored a penalty in their 4-0 victory over Barnsley. He won and converted a spot kick in their away rout over Sheffield United. Installed as captain due to the injured Fitz Hall, Taarabt sparkled in Rangers’ home win against Scunthorpe, assisting both goals. Thankfully there is now a tangible output for those remarkable flicks and tricks.

His critics would assert that the player has now found his level, outwitting the Championship’s slower defences. Moreover the histrionics from his game have not been eradicated, having been already cautioned for diving this season. A player who is eager to receive the ball, take on players and show flair is a luxury that many Championship sides cannot afford. Even stranger is the notion that Warnock who envisages a key role for Taarabt in their bid for promotion is tasked with harnessing his talent. At this early stage the fear for QPR fans is not whether he is good enough but whether he will be subject to interest from top flight clubs during the next transfer window. Tottenham fans may reconsider their views of Taarabt if he can force the west Londoners into the PL, unleashing their considerable spending potential.

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