Emmanuel Adebayor will play for Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday before heading off to the African Cup of Nations, and has suggested Spurs are less than happy about his participation.
Andre Villas-Boas, the Spurs manager, had said he was relaxed about the Togolese centre-forward's decision to play at this year's competition but the 28-year-old hinted today that that was not necessarily true.
"That is what he said to the press, but not what he said to me," Adebayor said in an interview with africatopsports.com, also published on the Togo Football Federation's website. "There is a difference between what you say to the press and what you say in private."
Villas-Boas had said on New Year's Day following Tottenham's 3-1 victory over Reading – in which Adebayor scored one of his two league goals this season – that the club would respect the player's decision either way.
"It's always his choice because I'm not going to put myself in a position where I block a player from international duty," Villas-Boas said. "We have left it to the player to decide. If he wants to go we fully respect it, and make sure we continue at this level. I'm not involved in any form. We have nothing to do with the situation."
Adebayor will be available for Saturday's Premier League game at Queen's Park Rangers before he flies out to South Africa. He will certainly miss the league games at home against Manchester United on 20 January and at Norwich City on 30 January. He will also miss the FA Cup fourth-round tie which will be at either Leeds United or Birmingham on 27 January.
Adebayor may return for the league game at West Bromwich Albion on 3 February. Togo are in Group D, which includes Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Algeria. If they do not qualify from the group, Adebayor should return at the end of the month. However, in the unlikely event that they go all the way he would not return until after the final on 10 February, missing another two league matches.
The absence of Adebayor leaves Villas-Boas with Jermain Defoe as his only fit senior striker for the rest of the month. Clint Dempsey has played close to a centre-forward this season but may have to lead the line if Defoe is unavailable.
Villas-Boas has made Brazilian striker Leandro Damiao of Internacional his priority in the January transfer window as he attempts to improve his options up front.
Out to Africa: Premier League missing list
Arsenal Gervinho (Ivory Coast). Has not proven very popular with Arsenal fans recently and with Theo Walcott looking increasingly likely to stay at the club, Gervinho will not be badly missed.
Aston Villa Karim El-Ahmadi (Morocco). More experienced than most Villa midfielders but has struggled to hold down a place.
Chelsea John Obi Mikel & Victor Moses (both Nigeria). Rafael Benitez likes to rotate so will miss Mikel in midfield – he has taken to playing David Luiz there recently. Moses offers something different and more direct up front but Chelsea certainly have high-quality alternatives.
Manchester City Abdul Razak, Kolo & Yaya Touré (all Ivory Coast). City were knocked out of both domestic cups last year when the Tourés were away. This year there is no Nigel de Jong to step in to midfield so City will need improved performances from Javi Garcia in his absence.
Newcastle United Cheick Tioté (Ivory Coast). Has not been near last year's form but Newcastle need experience in their midfield, especially with Yohan Cabaye injured.
QPR Samba Diakité (Mali). An early favourite of Harry Redknapp, but there are good alternatives in Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurlin.
West Bromwich Albion Youssouf Mulumbu (Congo). Powerful midfield presence who Steve Clarke will struggle to replace.
Wigan Arouna Koné (Ivory Coast). Wigan's top scorer so far this season with six Premier League goals, Kone will be sorely missed. Roberto Martinez has Mauro Boselli to bring in, as well as on-loan Angelo Henriquez, but he will struggle to match Koné.