Lassana Diarra

Lassana Diarra

Lassana Diarra (born March 10, 1985 in Paris, France) is a French footballer of Malian descent, who plays for English Premier League club Portsmouth FC. His predominant position is defensive midfielder, but he can also play in a more advanced role and has played at right back for both Chelsea and France. His nick-names include hammer-head and di-arrow (for his arrow like shots outside the box)

Club career

Early career

Diarra suffered rejection many times as a youngster. The first at FC Nantes, where he was deemed too "small and lightweight", at 5'8" and 9 stone, to succeed. Diarra admitted to thinking he thought his "football career was over". His next stop was Le Mans, where Diarra claimed they "didn't seem to care" about him. The Ligue 2 side then refused to supply the letter confirming his exit from the club, meaning Diarra would be helpless for 18 months. It has been said that Diarra faced a string of rejections that had initially made him return to school at the age of 16.

Le Havre

Diarra started his career at Le Havre, a French football team currently playing in the Second Division. A standout in his defensive midfield role, his reputation started to grow, and impressive performances saw his selection to the French U-21 squad. Along with the reputation came club interest, and Chelsea became potential suitors. With Claude Makélélé getting ever older, Chelsea's wide network of scouts tagged Diarra as the 'new' Makélélé and promptly paid £1m for his services in July 2005.

Chelsea

He immediately became a member of Chelsea's first team squad for 2005-06, but did not get much first team football. His Chelsea debut came in the Champions League in October 2005, when he was given a brief run out as a substitute when Chelsea were 4-0 up against Real Betis. However, he was not expected nor was he expecting to come straight into the side. Learning behind a master of his position, he improved throughout the season, showing impressively when playing for the reserve team. He impressed against Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup third round, winning rave reviews from both managers, teammates, and media sources. Diarra also completed the full 90 minutes in Chelsea's last two games of the season at Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United, as manager José Mourinho rotated his squad.

Diarra was named Chelsea's young player of the season for the season of 2005–06. Due to Chelsea's defensive injury setbacks during the 2006–07 season, he was often asked to play at right-back. He played full Premiership games against Blackburn Rovers, Charlton Athletic and Middlesbrough, with some success, and also played in Chelsea's win over in Arsenal in the League Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium. On July 29 reports surfaced suggesting he could be on his way to Arsenal in pursuit of first-team football. His contract with Chelsea was due to expire in January 2008, and having made no move to extend it he was sold to Arsenal on 31 August 2007, before he could leave on a free transfer.

Arsenal

On transfer deadline day August 31 2007, Diarra completed a move to Arsenal for an undisclosed amount. He wore the number 8 shirt, vacated by the departure of Fredrik Ljungberg. On his move across London, he cited Gunners manager Arsene Wenger as one of the main reasons for joining the club, along with the style of football Arsenal play. Arsene Wenger had called the young Frenchman a "multi functional player", adding that he is a good addition to the squad.

Diarra made his Arsenal debut as a late substitute in the home leg of the 2007–08 Champions League group stage match against Sevilla, and his full debut against Newcastle United in the third round of the Carling Cup. Diarra started his first Premier League match for Arsenal against Aston Villa.

Diarra began to get increasingly impatient at Arsenal and expressed concerns that he wanted a transfer in the January window because he has not seen enough first team football. After only five months at Arsenal, Diarra signed for Portsmouth in January 2008 for an undisclosed fee believed to be around £5,500,000.

Portsmouth

Diarra signed for Portsmouth on January 17 2008, citing that the lack of first team football at Arsenal would harm his chances of selection for Euro 2008. He was given his first start against Derby, contributing to a 3-1 win at Fratton Park, wearing the number 6 shirt. He scored his first goal for the club in the following match, against FA Cup Fourth Round Championship opponents Plymouth Argyle, and his first Premier League goal two weeks later, a late winner against Bolton. Diarra went on to play in every minute of Portsmouth's remaining FA Cup matches en route to claiming the trophy in the final.He finished the season by being included in the France squad for Euro 2008; this and the FA Cup win arguably vindicated his decision to part company with Arsenal, Diarra himself saying that it had "more than justified my decision". He played in the 2008 Community Shield against Manchester United, missing in the penalty shoot which was won by United. On the 18 September 2008 he scored Pompey's first ever goal in a major European competition. The first red card of Diarra's Premiership career came on 28 September 2008 when he was booked twice against Tottenham Hotspur at Fratton Park.

International career

Diarra has been capped eight times for the France U21s. Perhaps his most notable performance came in a UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship qualifying match against England in November 2005. With the game deep into stoppage time and seemingly destined for extra time (the aggregate score was 2–2), Diarra received the ball in the England penalty area. A challenge from Kieran Richardson saw Diarra go down, and a penalty was given. His French team mate Jimmy Briand scored the penalty past Scott Carson and France qualified.

Diarra was selected for the France national football team by coach Raymond Domenech for a 2008 Euro qualifier away to Lithuania on March 24 2007. He started the match, alongside Claude Makélélé and Jeremy Toulalan also in midfield, and played the full 90 minutes. He was also selected that year for an friendly match against Austria on March 28 2007. Diarra's consistent club performances in 2008 meant that he was picked for the France squad for Euro 2008 - ahead of other high-calibre players such as Djibril Cissé and Mathieu Flamini. However, with France failing to progress beyond the group stages, Diarra did not feature in any of their three matches. However, following the international retirement of fellow defensive midfielder Makélélé, he was called up for Domenech's France squad for a August 20, 2008 friendly with Sweden.

Career statistics

(correct as of 5 February 2008)

Club Season League Cup Europe Total
Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists
Chelsea 2005–06 3 0 0 2 0 0 2 0 0 7 0 0
2006–07 10 0 0 8 0 0 5 0 1 23 0 1
Arsenal 2007–08 7 0 0 3 0 0 3 0 0 13 0 0
Portsmouth 2007–08 22 1 0 5 1 0 0 0 0 27 2 0
2008–09 5 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 7 1 0
Career totals 75 3 1

List of honours

Chelsea F.C.

Portsmouth F.C.

References

External links

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