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Red of the Day - Salif Diao

by Phil Matthews

 

In the summer of 2002, while recovering from an operation on his heart, Gerard Houllier scouted several players under the influence of strong medication. Several of them ended up at Anfield. One example of this was 'The Sheriff', Salif Diao. That summer was a disaster in terms of transfer dealings for the club.

 

Diao was a virtual unknown to most Liverpool fans, but first came to people’s attention during the 2002 World Cup, where alongside his future Liverpool team mate El-Hadji Diouf, he formed a key part of the Senegalese team’s superb run to the quarter finals, including a goal in the first round against Denmark (and then shortly afterwards, a red card).

 

Diao’s arrival at Liverpool for £5m was heralded by a typically understated comment from Gerard Houllier that he was “the next Vieira”. It was shortly very obvious that Salif wasn’t even close. Naturally a defensive midfielder, Diao was played in a variety of positions, including disastrous attempts in defence, where Liverpool were torn apart by future manager Rafa Benitez’s Valencia side. Diao was a strong tackler, but he was slow of mind and foot, and also very clumsy.

 

After Rafa took over at Anfield, Salif found his way into central midfield. Against Fulham, he was substituted after he attempted to backheel the ball, miscontrolled it, and the opposition scored. He was loaned to Birmingham in an effort to engineer him a move away from Anfield, and the following season wasn’t even given a squad number at Liverpool, with his #15 being assigned to Peter Crouch.

 

Injuries restricted his appearances at Birmingham, and his loan to Portsmouth the following season. Eventually, he was loaned to Stoke and his move became permanent when his contract at Liverpool expired.

 

Everyone loves a trier, and Diao really was one of those, but he was also a terrible footballer and never should have been signed.

 

 

Date of Birth: 10/02/77

Nationality: Senagalise

Postition: Midfield

Games: 61

Goals: 3

ClubHons (Lpool): None

Int Hons: 39 Senegal caps

Other Clubs: Monaco,Epinal (loan), Sedan, Birmingham City (loan), Portsmouth (loan), Stoke City (loan & permanent)

diao_salif_profile.jpg
Salif DIAO 2002-07

 

diao1.jpg

 

 

diao2.jpg

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A perfect example of why it's not always a good thing to sign a player based on a strong-ish showing at a major international tournament. We didn't even need Diao in the squad at the time either, because the midfield was based on a disciplined and fairly cautious approach which wouldn't work with a clumsy but athletic type in the middle of it. The strange part is that Gerrard was emerging at the time having been guided by the experience of the likes of Redknapp, McAllister and Hamann and he'd really started to flourish, only for Houllier to pretty much tear up what was working well and start again.

 

Several players from that Senegal squad changed clubs that summer, and what a lot of those managers didn't seem to realise was that these players had been nothing more than mediocre at club level, but had found a common cause at international level that enabled them to raise their game and do better than expected. 

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A perfect example of why it's not always a good thing to sign a player based on a strong-ish showing at a major international tournament. We didn't even need Diao in the squad at the time either, because the midfield was based on a disciplined and fairly cautious approach which wouldn't work with a clumsy but athletic type in the middle of it. The strange part is that Gerrard was emerging at the time having been guided by the experience of the likes of Redknapp, McAllister and Hamann and he'd really started to flourish, only for Houllier to pretty much tear up what was working well and start again.

 

Several players from that Senegal squad changed clubs that summer, and what a lot of those managers didn't seem to realise was that these players had been nothing more than mediocre at club level, but had found a common cause at international level that enabled them to raise their game and do better than expected.

Bruno Metsu was the Senegal coach thay World Cup, sadly died in October after losing his fight with cancer.

 

That Sengal side are the featured World Soccer's greatest teams section in this month's edition as well.

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In fairness to him:

1. Did he not score a winning goal against Leeds in one of his early games? And this was when Leeds were good.

2. He was better than Diouf

3. I like his hair

4. He might be a very good violinist for all we know.

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