Togo coach Tom Saintfiet hopes for Emmanuel Adebayor return

Emmanuel Adebayor
Emmanuel Adebayor last played for Togo in June 2015

Togo coach Tom Saintfiet is hopeful he may yet be able to convince Emmanuel Adebayor to return to the national team, after the striker rejected a call-up for their forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Tunisia.

Adebayor, who last played for his country in June 2015, said he wanted to focus on his new club Crystal Palace which he joined in January after 10 months away from professional football.

But Saintfiet said the 32-year-old was still key to his plans.

"Me as national team coach, I want Adebayor to return to the national team, I want him to be there, I want him to play and I want him to score goals for our country," Saintfiet told BBC Sport.

Adebayor has had a difficult relationship with Saintfiet in the past.

The former Tottenham, Manchester City and Arsenal player had not been picked since failing to turn up for a Nations Cup qualifier against Djibouti in September following a row over losing the captaincy.

But Saintfiet says he has been monitoring Adebayor's progress at Crystal Palace and is hopeful the striker may change his mind about returning to the national set-up before the Tunisia match on 25 March.

"I got the information that Adebayor gave a message that he is is not ready to come back, but let's see what happens in the next coming weeks," he said.

"We have still a few weeks before the match, so I hope we can still convince him to return to the national team."

Despite their previous disagreements, Saintfiet says the relationship between him and Adebayor has been good in recent weeks.

"I spoke with Emmanuel in the last month on an almost weekly basis so I know his doubts, I know his problems and his frustrations.

"We have a very good relationship, but he knows also that I, as a national team coach, really want him to be there, and I hope that he returns to the national team to help his country to qualify.

"But I can't force any player to play - it's the choice, always the final choice of the player," Saintfiet said.

Togo lead Group A of 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying, ahead of Liberia, Tunisia and Djibouti with two wins from as many qualifiers.

They next play Tunisia on 25 March with the group winners gaining automatic entry to the 2017 finals in Gabon.

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