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Traore, Djimi

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DJIMI TRAORE 1999-2006

by Dave Usher

Date of Birth - 01/03/80
Nationality - French/Mali
Position - Defender
Cost - £500,000
Games - 141
Goals - 1
Club Hons (Lpool) - 2005 Champions League
Club Hons (Other) - None
Intnl Hons - France U21, Mali Caps
Other Clubs - Laval, Lens (loan), Charlton, Portsmouth, Rennes, Birmingham (loan), Monaco

When Gerard Houllier signed the unknown Traore from small time French club Laval, he claimed that in years to come, Liverpool fans would thank him for bringing the talented youngster to the club.

Yet despite showing a lot of promise, Traore took a long time to justify his manager's boast, and has yet to fully win over the Liverpool crowd, although his performances in 2004/05 improved his reputation no end.

Djimi was exceptionally quick, good in the air, and was regarded as a massive prospect when he arrived in L4. The reds beat of competition from Inter Milan, PSG, Marseille and Barcelona amongst others to secure his services, and several clubs have since tried to tempt the reds in to parting with him.

Most of his early appearances for the club came at left back, and he had some difficulty adjusting to that role. His first run in the side came at full back during the treble season, and he struggled badly at times, most notably at Highbury and in Athens against Olympiakos. A persistent hamstring injury meant that he missed large chunks of that season, and he slipped down the pecking order as Houllier brought in Christian Ziege and Gregory Vignal, as well as switching Jamie Carragher to the left full back spot.

Fulham and Blackburn were both keen to recruit him, but rather than sell the talented youngster, Gerard opted to let him join French club RC Lens - managed by former reds' coach Patrice Bergues - on loan for the 2001-02 season. On his return to Anfield, Djimi revealed that he wished he had joined Blackburn instead of staying with the reds, and it appeared his days at the club were numbered. However, a series of impressive pre-season performances forced Houllier into a rethink, and Traore featured regularly the following season, mainly in the centre due to continuing injury problems for Stephane Henchoz.

His first goal for the reds came in the 2003/04 season when he produced a stunning curling right foot shot from 20 yards in Bucharest in a UEFA Cup tie, but it was a rare highlight in a season in which Traore once again failed to hold down a regular place in the side.

The arrival of Rafa Benitez looked to signal the end for Traore, as the Spanish boss ruthlessly disposed of most of the French dead wood that his predecessor had left behind. West Brom showed a strong interest, and Everton actually agreed a deal to take Traore across the park to Goodison, but Benitez felt he hadn't seen enough of the player to sanction a deal, and put the blocks on it.

Traore proved to be a revelation, turning in a series of solid displays at left back, most notably against Deportivo La Coruna in the Champions League. The mistakes that had become something of a Traore trademark appeared to have been eradicated, and even players like Damien Duff and Arjen Robben struggled to get the better of the gangly Frenchman.

However, a comical own goal which resulted in the reds being dumped out of the FA Cup by Burnley brought back all the old question marks about Traore. In the past a mistake such as that would have seen Traore become a nervous wreck and he'd have slipped out of the spotlight back into the reserves. The player was more mature now however, and he put the own goal horror behind him to play a significant role in the reds Champions League success.

The following season he reverted to being a bit part player again, and in the summer of 2006 he joined Charlton Athletic. The Addicks struggled desperately, and Traore failed to settle and was sold to Portsmouth just six months after arriving at the Valley. He was soon on the move again, returning to his homeland to join Rennes. A loan move to Birmingham saw Traore back on English shores, before he returned back to France to join Monaco.

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