The Premier League’s forgotten marksman

In November, Robin Van Persie scored in Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Arsenal. It made headlines not just because he had found the net against his former club, but also because it meant he was one of two players to have scored against every single one of the 20 current Premier League teams.

So who was the other?

The answer took me by surprise.

(Getty)

(Getty)

Yes, I’m talking about Yakubu Aiyegbeni. He’s now the answer to a trivia question and it’s a good one because few players have been forgotten by the mainstream as quickly as he has.

His case also illustrates how the transfer market can work in mysterious ways. Van Persie is nine months younger. He scored nearly twice many goals as Yakubu last season. But he moved for more than 20 times as much and was pursued by half a dozen top teams around Europe. Meanwhile, nobody showed much interest in “the Yak.”

But it’s not as if Yakubu would have earned substantially less had he found a club in a major European league. This is a guy who reached double figures in league goals in all but two of the past 11 years (and in one of those seasons, he missed seven months due to injury). Yet according to Yakubu, Guangzhou R&F were the only club to show genuine interest.

Why?

The answer may have to do with our prejudices. Yakubu’s body type is such that he doesn’t look much like an athlete. He also has — rightly or wrongly — a reputation for being lazy and not doing much off the ball. You can see why scouts would look at him and — between the body type and the perceived work ethic — conclude he wasn’t worth the money.

Yet he has scored 96 Premier League goals. To put it in context, only three players younger than him have scored more: Darren Bent, Van Persie and Wayne Rooney. The latter two spent most of their careers at far better teams that score many more goals. A Moneyball devotee would suggest that, because goal scoring is so important, Yakubu’s numbers, juxtaposed with his age, fee and salary would make signing him a no-brainer.

With a little nous, a number of teams could have put together a package (especially given the low fee) that Yakubu would have found more attractive than a move to China. And he could have helped someone this very season, whether in the Premier League or elsewhere.

The guys who get paid to make the big decisions at football clubs obviously felt differently. It’s not as if he has torn up the Chinese league, but he nevertheless showed that the scoring touch is still there, notching nine goals in 14 games. I can’t vouch for the quality of the Chinese league, but it’s more than Drogba and Anelka scored, and presumably they were playing against the same standard of opposition.

At the very least, it’s remarkable how a guy who has scored so much in the Premier League could disappear from people’s radar screens so quickly.

Read The Premier League’s forgotten marksman on ESPN Soccernet

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One Comment on “The Premier League’s forgotten marksman”

  1. pardonthepun-dit January 13, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    yup the YAK def deserves better…he may not be lazy….BUT with such a profile, me thinks it’s his agent, rather than him, who is LAZY!!!

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