Lassana Diarra

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Not to be confused with Lassana Diarra (Malian footballer).
Lassana Diarra
Lassana Diarra 2013.jpg
Diarra playing for Lokomotiv Moscow in 2013
Personal information
Full name Lassana Diarra[1]
Date of birth (1985-03-10) 10 March 1985 (age 29)
Place of birth Paris, France
Height 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)[2]
Playing position Midfielder
Youth career
Le Mans
Red Star 93
2003–2004 Le Havre
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2004–2005 Le Havre 29 (0)
2005–2007 Chelsea 13 (0)
2007–2008 Arsenal 7 (0)
2008–2009 Portsmouth 24 (1)
2009–2012 Real Madrid 87 (1)
2012–2013 Anzhi Makhachkala 18 (0)
2013–2014 Lokomotiv Moscow 17 (1)
National team
2005–2006 France U21 18 (0)
2007–2010 France 28 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 30 September 2014.

† Appearances (Goals).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 30 August 2010

Lassana Diarra (born 10 March 1985), nicknamed Lass, is a French footballer of Malian descent. His predominant position is defensive midfielder but he can also play in a more advanced role and has played at right back, which he occasionally did for former club Chelsea, as well as France.

Early career[edit]

Diarra was turned down by football clubs as a youngster. FC Nantes deemed him too "small and lightweight" to succeed[3] at 170 cm and 58 kg (5'7" and 9 stone). Lass admitted he thought his "football career was over".[3] His next stop was Le Mans UC, where Diarra claimed they "didn't seem to care" about him.[3]

Club career[edit]

Le Havre[edit]

Diarra during his time at Chelsea.

Diarra's footballing career finally began at Le Havre, a former French top-flight football team. Outstanding 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 interest from other clubs, and Chelsea became potential suitors. With Chelsea's Claude Makélélé not getting any younger, Chelsea's wide network of scouts tagged Diarra as the "new Makélélé" and the club promptly paid £1 million for his services in July 2005.[4]


Diarra was in Chelsea's first team squad in the 2005–06 season, but did not get much first team football. His Chelsea debut came in the UEFA 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 expecting to come straight into the side. Learning from Makélélé, a master of his position, he improved throughout the season, showing impressively when playing for the reserve team. He played well against Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup third round, winning rave reviews from both managers, teammates, and media sources. He became a bit part player in Chelsea's first team and 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 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 started in Chelsea's win over Arsenal in the League Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium. On 29 July, reports surfaced suggesting he could be on his way to Arsenal in pursuit of first-team football.[5] His contract with Chelsea was due to expire in January 2008, and having made no move to extend it, Chelsea sold him to Arsenal on 31 August 2007, before he could leave on a free transfer.[6]


Diarra training during his time at Arsenal.

On 31 August 2007, transfer deadline day, he signed for Arsenal for an undisclosed fee.[7] He was given the number 8 shirt, vacated by the departure of winger Freddie Ljungberg. On his move across London, he cited Gunners manager Arsène Wenger as one of the main reasons for joining the club, along with the style of football played by Arsenal. Wenger had called the young Frenchman a "multi-functional player", and a good addition to the squad.[8] 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 League Cup. Lass started his first Premier League match for Arsenal against Aston Villa. With the emergence of defensive midfielder Mathieu Flamini in the Arsenal side, Diarra saw only limited action in the early months of the season. Having expressed concerns that he was not playing enough first team football,[9] Diarra signed for Portsmouth in January 2008 after only 5 months at Arsenal for an undisclosed fee believed to be around £5.5 million.[10]


Diarra signed for Portsmouth on 17 January 2008.[11][12] He was given his first start against Derby County,[13] contributing to a 3–1 win at Fratton Park. He scored his first goal for the club in the following match, against FA Cup Fourth Round Championship opponents Plymouth Argyle,[14] and his first Premier League goal two weeks later, a controversial late winner against Bolton Wanderers.[15] Diarra went on to play in every minute of Portsmouth's remaining FA Cup matches en route to claiming the trophy in the final.[16][17][18][19] He topped 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."[20] He played in the 2008 Community Shield against Manchester United, missing in the penalty shoot out which was won by United. On 18 September 2008 he scored Pompey's first ever goal in a major European competition against Vitória Guimarães,[21] his third and final goal for the club. The first red card of Diarra's Premier League career came on 28 September 2008 when he was booked twice against Tottenham Hotspur at Fratton Park.

Real Madrid[edit]

Diarra against Lionel Messi during El Clásico at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, December 2011

On 17 December 2008, Portsmouth agreed a fee with Real Madrid for Diarra to join them on 1 January 2009 for a fee of around €20 million (£18.88 million), subject to a medical.[22][22] and €20 million transfer was agreed five days later.[23] He was assigned the number 6 shirt of Mahamadou Diarra for domestic competitions as the Malian midfielder was out with a season-ending injury and the vacant number 39 for the Champions League. He wore the name Lass on the back of his shirt to avoid confusion with Mahamadou. His transfer was officially completed on 1 January 2009, the opening of the transfer window. Madrid had planned to add both Diarra and fellow new signing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to their 2008–09 Champions League squad, but both players had already featured in the same season's UEFA Cup for previous clubs Portsmouth and Ajax, respectively. UEFA rules would allow only one of the pair to be registered[24][25] by 1 February 2009 and eventually Diarra was selected to play in the competition.[26]

Diarra's performance for Real Madrid in his first few months earned him a spot among the starting eleven on UEFA's 2008–09 La Liga Breakthrough Team. The Madridista joined Sevilla's Diego Perotti as the only foreigner on the list. According to the UEFA website, he "joined Real Madrid in the winter transfer window with a very low profile, although in a few short months he managed to convince the demanding Madridista fan base."

For the 2009–10 season he was assigned the number 10 shirt after Wesley Sneijder moved to Internazionale and Mahamadou Diarra came back from injury and reclaimed the number 6 shirt. Lass scored his first official goal for Madrid in the 2009–10 La Liga season opener against Deportivo de La Coruña, providing his side with their winning goal in a 3–2 victory.

In August 2010, it was reported that Diarra has been transfer listed by Real.[27] However, José Mourinho included Lass Diarra in his starting lineup for the first game of the 2010/11 season.[28] Because Madrid bought Sami Khedira, Diarra faced further competition to get into the squad. However, Mourinho said he would not be leaving and said that he saw Lass as a starting player.[29]

Diarra in 2012 alongside with Mesut Özil and Ángel Di María.

After huge speculations of Diarra leaving Real Madrid during the summer 2011 transfer window, during which he didn't participate in the team's preseason,[30] Diarra finally stayed at the club, getting the #24 jersey after Sami Khedira had taken #6 and Mesut Özil the #10 during the summer.

He had a decent 2011–12 season, culminating in winning the La Liga title with the club. He participated in the team's 2012 preseason, and won the 2012 Supercopa with the club. It seems he was forced out of the club alongside fellow midfield enforcer Esteban Granero to accommodate the stay of Kaká despite the latter being linked with an exit.

Anzhi Makhachkala[edit]

Diarra with Anzhi in 2012

After falling down in the pecking order, he was linked to join Russian side Spartak Moscow.[31] On transfer deadline day, 31 August 2012 Lass joined Anzhi Makhachkala on a four-year deal for an undisclosed fee.[32] He was originally meant to join merely on loan,[33] but the club decided to make the deal permanent. After joining Anzhi Makhachkala, Diarra made an explanation that he joined the club, claiming that Samuel Eto'o persuaded him to join and insisted money wasn't the reason he joined.[34]

Lokomotiv Moscow[edit]

After Anzhi made their whole squad available for transfer due to cost-cutting, there was talk of a number of clubs interested in his services. Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain were thought to be interested in taking him back to France. He eventually signed a three-year deal with the Russian rivals on 20 August 2013. He was given the number 85 shirt. Though he was twice sent off in first matches for his new club versus Zenit and Tom' Tonsk, Diarra quickly established himself in starting XI, claiming one of two usual holding midfielder's posts alongside Dmitri Tarasov. His growing influence in team work became acknowledged: in November and December 2013 he won monthly poll among Loko fans in social networks and obtained Player of the Month award twice in a row.[35][36]

Playing style[edit]

He has unusually good ball control for a defensive midfielder and has been praised for his physical strength in defense.[37] Due to his versatility, Madrid’s La Sexta television commentators refer to him as a "todocampista" or "jack of all trades."[38]

Personal life[edit]

Diarra is a practising Muslim. He observes fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan.[39]

International career[edit]

Lass Diarra won eighteen caps for the France U-21s. 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), Lass received the ball in the England penalty area. A challenge from Kieran Richardson saw Diarra go down, and a penalty was given. His French teammate Jimmy Briand scored the penalty past Scott Carson and France qualified.[40][41] Lass was selected for the senior team by coach Raymond Domenech for a 2008 Euro qualifier away to Lithuania on 24 March 2007. He started the match, alongside Claude Makélélé and Jérémy Toulalan also in midfield, and played the full 90 minutes.[42] He was also selected that year for a friendly match against Austria on 28 March 2007.[43] Lass's consistent club performances in 2008 meant that he was picked for the France squad for Euro 2008, ahead of high-calibre players such as Djibril Cissé and Mathieu Flamini.[20] However, with France failing to progress beyond the group stages, Lass did not feature in any of their three matches.[44][45][46] Following the international retirement of fellow defensive midfielder Makélélé, he was called up for Raymond Domenech's France squad in the 20 August 2008 friendly with Sweden.[47] By the end of the 2010 World Cup Qualifying campaign, Lass had made 26 appearances for France.[48] On 11 May 2010, Lass was named to the preliminary squad of Domenech's squad to play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He was later named to the shortened list of players and was expected to be a starter alongside Jérémy Toulalan in the midfield. However, on 22 May, while training with the national team in the high-altitude commune of Tignes, it was announced that Diarra was dropping out of the squad due to suffering severe intestinal pain and stomach cramps as a result of the altitude. A follow-up medical check revealed that the injury requires a significant amount of rest.[49] His parent club, Real Madrid, later revealed that Diarra's injury was due to asthenic syndrome secondary related to sickle-cell anemia, a genetic blood disorder characterized by red blood cells that assume an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape.[50]

Career statistics[edit]


(Correct as of 11 August 2010)[48]
National team Season Apps Goals Assists
France 2007–08 9 0 0
2008–09 7 0 0
2009–10 10 0 0
2010–11 2 0 0
Total 28 0 0


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External links[edit]