Emmanuel Adebayor sets record straight about Man City
When Manchester City take on Stoke in the FA Cup final on Saturday, Emmanuel Adebayor - on loan at Real Madrid from Eastlands - will be watching from a hotel room in the Spanish city of Villarreal. It is a pretty bleak image.
He looked into getting tickets for the game so he could cheer his friends on but, as Real Madrid have a match the following day, will have to settle for seeing the match on the television.
As I sit down with him in his garden in Madrid for our interview, he is all smiles, handshakes and laughs. It is a stark contrast to the moment when, in his last week at City before moving on loan to Real Madrid, he asked himself: "What am I still doing alive?"
There are no club press officers or PR people with us. He's ready to talk openly and starts by explaining how he fell out with City manager Roberto Mancini.
"It's always difficult to come back and play football when you know you may have been buried somewhere," Adebayor tells me. He is referring to the gun attack on the Togo team bus at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.
The tragic incident in Angola left three people dead and the survivors, of which Adebayor was one, in deep shock. A traumatic time, Adebayor had a period of compassionate leave but returned to football following a request from City boss Mancini.
"I jumped on the first plane and I came back to Manchester. I played and scored goals," he said. "Then we went on holiday and came back. I don't know what happened in his [Mancini's] head but I was not part of his plans any more."
The crunch came when he was brought on as a substitute by Mancini in injury-time against Manchester United, with the game meandering towards a 0-0 draw.
"He put me on for the last 15 seconds or 30 seconds," recalls Adebayor. "So I told him after the game: 'Listen, I'm not a 16-year-old boy'.
"I said 'please, I'm not forcing you to play me. If you don't want to play me, don't play me. But the respect I have for you, please have the minimum respect back for me. Don't play me for the last 15 seconds any more'.
"Then he got frustrated - saying 'how can you speak to me, I'm the manager'. I said 'yes, I know, but I don't know what you want me to do on the football pitch for 15 seconds. So respect me for that'. I think that from that day everything went bad, and he was not speaking to me any more."
It's rare to see footballers speak so openly. But while Adebayor is full of emotion as he talks, this isn't a mindless rant. It's his chance to tell the City fans his version of the events that led to him leaving.
Given what he's just told me, I ask whether the situation with Mancini can be repaired?
"Of course, yes," he says immediately. "Some people don't speak to their fathers for 10 or 15 years, but one day you will realise it's your father and you will talk to him back.
"But we have a bad moment for maybe two or three months. If I have to go back we will sit down like two big men and sort out the problem. I'm not forcing him to play me but he has to have the right respect for his player. That's all I'm asking for."
The 27-year-old admits that part of him will be sad he's not involved in the FA Cup final. He misses his friends at the club, listing them and describing his relationship with them.
"I leave a family there," he adds. "Not a friend. I leave a family. You ask all of them and they will tell you they miss Adebayor because I made them laugh. They make me laugh and I was among them as family."
The striker describes his manager at the Bernabeu, Jose Mourinho, as the best he has ever worked under. Mourinho gives him what Mancini did not - respect.
"I'm not a regular starter [at Madrid], sometimes I'm on the bench, but at the end of the day I know what he wants me to do, what he's expecting from me - not like a manager who forgets you," says Adebayor.
"Sometimes when I was in Manchester I wasn't in the squad while knowing that I'm much better than some of them. I'm not going to say any names but when I was sitting down on the bench seeing some players playing, that's the very bad situation you can be in."
Conversation turns to African footballers' contribution to the Premier League. He is supporting Britain's Best of Africa Awards, with a ceremony to be held later this month to recognise the achievements of players from the continent both on and off the pitch.
Adebayor has been active away from the game, recently giving a house he owns in Ghana to orphans fleeing conflicts in west Africa. It will provide a home to hundreds of children and he will be paying their school fees too.
He wants the football industry to do more to support Africa through some of its problems.
"We can ask football to do more," he says. "For example, if you mention the name of Didier Drogba to important people then they take notice. If you mention Michael Essien it's the same. Salomon Kalou - the same. Alex Song - the same.
"So we have to do something. We have to meet with each other and discuss what we can ask the Premier League to do for our continent. If we put something down together into a proposal then I think the Premier League may take notice."
Last month Adebayor made headlines for both the right and wrong reasons. His two goals against Tottenham in the Champions League quarter-final effectively ended the north London club's dream of progressing in the competition. But chants alleged to contain "racial overtones" caused some campaigners to ask Uefa, European football's governing body, to take action.
"I heard about it and I felt so bad because before joining Real Madrid my first choice was Tottenham. I was supposed to move to Tottenham," he reveals.
"I was supposed to sign for Tottenham but everything went and Madrid came in. It is bad because people have to realise that we are footballers. Today we play for this club, tomorrow we may end up playing for them. So what about if I'm wearing Tottenham's shirt tomorrow? As their player, are they going to encourage me or are they still going to sing that song?"
Adebayor has to report to the team hotel later in the day so I'm aware that we're eating into his personal time. But at the end of our interview, instead of rushing us out of the door, he has time for a kickabout on his lawn.
Unsurprisingly, he is in his element showcasing his skills with a ball at his feet. I can't help but think that if things had worked out differently he could have been preparing for an FA Cup final.
But with a Copa del Rey winner's medal with Real already secured, he's not bitter about missing out. Instead, he's looking to the future.
"Maybe they're going to win the FA Cup this year", he says of City. "Maybe next year, with me, they're going to win the league. And I think the league is bigger than the Cup? Maybe with me, we even win the Champions League next season, so I wish them the best of luck."
Watch the full Emmanuel Adebayor interview in Football Focus, BBC1, Saturday at 1215 BST, which also features interviews with Tony Pulis, Roberto Mancini and Walter Smith.