At the mention of the name Taye Taiwo, the first point of reference will be his bullet-shots that so endeared him to fans at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Holland.
On April 16, 2023 , 2005 U-20 World cup Bronze ball winner Taye Taiwo clocked 38. Today on history book, we take you back to the glory days of Taye Taiwo.
IN THE BEGINNING
Prior to his participation at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup, Taiwo did represent defunct Gabros International and Lobi Stars FC in the Nigerian league. Those were his formative years and set the foundation for his invitation by Coach Samson Siasia to the Flying Eagles.
At the World Cup, Taiwo via his performances launched his career and had loads of clubs battling for his services. He was fast, strong and powerful. The left-back wasn’t just a member of the silver-winning Flying Eagles team but one of the best three alongside Lionel Messi and compatriot Mikel Obi.
In his glory days, Taiwo forayed forward, often contributing in making his team tick in the final third and balanced it with defensive astuteness.
The defender scored two goals at the World Cup, the first was a cross-cum-shot with his weaker foot that was the winning goal against Ukraine in the Round of 16, while the second, a typical bullet effort, was the opener in the Eaglets’ comfortable 3-0 semi-final success over Morocco.
Taiwo and the Flying Eagles lost the final to a Lionel Messi inspired Argentina. His performance at the World Cup won the left-back trust and opportunities at French Ligue One side Olympique Marseille where he enjoyed his “glory days” in professional football.
THE GLORY DAYS
Taiwo resumed at Marseille after the World Cup as a ” star boy “. Just like Messi and Mikel who won the golden and silver ball at the World Cup were hot cakes in the eye of top European clubs, Marseille did raise the left-backs rating and so manager Jean Fernandez made him the first choice left-back for the 2006/2007 season.
Taye Taiwo made 30 league appearances that season, the following seasons too were fruitful for him as he racked 37, 28, 35, 27 and 30 league appearances.
For seven years, fans at the Stade Velodrome got used to his trademark bullet shots and so despite the raft of managerial changes at the club, Taiwo remained the key man at Left-back.
From 2005 to 2011, the likes of Jean Fernandez, Albert Emon and Eric Gerets and current France national team boss Didier Deschamps kept faith with Taiwo and so by the 2009/2010 season when Olympique Marseille ended an 18-year wait for the Ligue One title, his place in the clubs history book was settled.
That season, the 2005 U-20 World Cup winner was joined by Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze in competition for the left-back spot but still got 37 appearances with three goals to his name as Marseille won the French Ligue 1 and Coupe de la Ligue titles.
The 2010/2011 season was his last for the French side and as summed from struggles that followed, the last of his glory days.
Taiwo made forty-one (41) appearances in all competitions that season scoring five goals to earn a mega move to Italian Serie giants AC Milan.
At 26, Taiwo arrived at the San Siro outfit in his peak years with high expectations of taking his career to the next level but it was not to be. That was the beginning of another chapter at club and International level. One that closed the glory days of Taye Taiwo.
Taiwo suffered a calf injury that kept him out for the first month of the season. By the time he returned for his debut on September 24, 2011, AC Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri had other options for the left-back position.
Italian defenders Luca Antonini and Gianluca Zambrotta were preferred to Taiwo and so by December 2011, the Nigerian was fed up with the new condition.
Taiwo via an interview with French sports newspaper L’Équipe expressed his disappointment with his lack of game-time at AC Milan.
“I am suffering every day because I don’t get to play football. I joined this club in order to play, but I have made only six appearances so far,” Taiwo complained.
“I don’t understand how things work in Italy. Sometimes I even have to watch from the stands, but I really need to play in order to show what I can do.
“It looks like Allegri doesn’t have faith in me. It’s not like me to just sit back and do nothing in a situation like this.”
In the January transfer window, the Nigerian defender elected to take a loan switch to then English Premier League side Queens Park Rangers.
There he made 15-appearances scoring once to help the club retain its top-flight status but they decided against retaining his services on a permanent basis so he returned to Milan.
That same year (2012), Taiwo`s influence with the Nigeria national team had dropped drastically. Elderson Echiejille was the new first choice left-back and so the 54-cap bullet shot star faded off the international stage in 2012.
Another loan move to Ukrainian club Dynamo Kyiv could not bring back the glory days and so the left-back journeyed from Bursaspor in Turkey to Helsinki in Finland, Lausanne Sports, AFC Eskilstauna, Rops, Doxa Katokopias, Palm Beach Soccer Stars, Saint Angelo and the last as recorded by Wikipedia, Finland second-tier club Salpa Palloilijat .
In total, Taye Taiwo has played a total of 526 matches from 2004-2022 scoring 43 goals at club and international level ( Stats per Wikipedia ).
WHAT NEXT FOR TAIWO
At 38 and currently without a club, Taiwo will do well to announce his retirement from active football and step into another chapter of his life.
With his wealth of experience and contacts, a career in coaching or football administration is a possibility. That is his decision to take though.
Ours is to close the History book at this point with a remark that Taye Taiwo in his glory days was one of the best left-backs in the world and is rated among the Top Goal Scoring Defenders in World Football.