Queens Parks Rangers forward Adel Taarabt made a furious riposte Tuesday at manager Harry Redknapp for claiming he was overweight and unfit to play.
The 25-year-old Moroccan lifted his shirt for a newspaper interview to show off his slimline waist and blasted Redknapp for the time he spends in the office and his tactics at the London side who are bottom of the Premier League.
"I am a professional -- this is not about retaliation, this is about protecting my reputation," the player told the Daily Mail.
"It's not true to say I'm not fit. He tried to give an excuse," Taarabt said. He insisted he was now 85 kilos (187 pounds), one kilo (2.2 pounds) below his maximum weight when on loan at AC Milan last season.
Redknapp launched into the fitness of the star forward after Rangers' 3-2 defeat to Liverpool on Sunday when Taarabt was not even among the substitutes.
Asked about Taarabt's injury status, Redknapp snapped that the young forward was not fit to play. "I can't keep protecting people who don't want to run about and train, who are about three stone (42 pounds/19 kilos) overweight."
Redknapp demanded the Moroccan prove he was worth his weekly wage of about $100,000 (80,000 euros, £60,000).
"He played in a reserve team game the other day, and I could have run about more than he did.
- 'Protecting myself' -
"What am I supposed to keep saying, keep getting your 60, 70 grand (97,000-112,000 dollars) a week but don't train?"
Taarabt said that the 67-year-old manager was hardly ever at training.
"He spends most of the time in his office but when he gets off the phone he comes down to watch for five or 10 minutes -- he never takes a session," Taarabt said.
"I played in that reserve game for 90 minutes and if he didn't think I was running he could have taken me off. Maybe I didn't perform like I could because it was a reserve game and I was protecting myself.
"Just because we are losing games I am not going to kick the ball in the stands. My job is to create, bring goals to the team.
"Maybe he expects me to make more tackles. I am not this type of player. I can only get fitness playing Premier League. You can train six or seven hours, but you won’t be fit."
Taarabt, who has made just three appearances in Rangers' return to the Premier League, said the training methods are years out of date.
"The training sessions aren’t the same standard as Milan, or what I would expect under another manager.
"They are not as intense, the players aren’t as motivated. It is the same as we used to do at Tottenham years ago. When we played West Ham he told the players 'you’re not fit, you’re not this, you’re not that'.
"I said: 'But the problem is we don’t have any plan in the game, we don’t know how to press as a team.' It’s not about just running around, you need to play with your brain."
Taarabt said Rangers must change their tactics to succeed. "Almost every time we lose the ball the opposition score. We need to do something about it."
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)