Lassana Diarra

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Not to be confused with Lassana Diarra (Malian footballer).
Lassana Diarra
Lassana Diarra 2014.jpg
Diarra in 2014
Personal information
Full name Lassana Diarra[1]
Date of birth (1985-03-10) 10 March 1985 (age 31)
Place of birth Paris, France
Height 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)[2]
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current team
Marseille
Number 10
Youth career
Paris FC
Nantes
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)
2015– Marseille 25 (1)
National team
2005–2006 France U21 18 (0)
2007– France 34 (0)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 10:52, 8 May 2016 (UTC).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 30 May 2016

Lassana Diarra (born 10 March 1985), nicknamed Lass, is a French footballer who currently plays for Ligue 1 club Marseille. 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; Nantes deemed him too "small and lightweight" to succeed[3] at 170 cm and 58 kg (5'7" and 9 stone). He 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 under-21 squad. Along with the reputation came interest from other clubs, and Chelsea became potential suitors. With Chelsea's Claude Makélélé getting older, Chelsea's scouts tagged Diarra as the "new Makélélé" and the club paid £1 million for his services in July 2005.[4]

Chelsea[edit]

Diarra was in Chelsea's first team squad in the 2005–06 season, but did not see 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. Learning from Claude Makélélé he played well against Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup third round, winning rave reviews from both managers, teammates, and media sources. He made his league debut when he came on as a substitute for Makélélé on 5 February 2006 in a 2–0 win over Liverpool.[5] 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 respectively, as manager José Mourinho rotated his squad. This meant Diarra ended the season with three league appearances as Chelsea won the 2005–06 FA Premier League. Diarra was named Chelsea's Young Player of the Season for 2005–06.[6]

Due to Chelsea's defensive injury setbacks during the 2006–07 season, he was often asked to play at right back. He played full Premier League games against Blackburn, Charlton Athletic and Middlesbrough, with some success. He also started in Chelsea's win over Arsenal in the League Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium.[6] He was an unused substitute as Chelsea won the 2007 FA Cup Final against Manchester United. On 29 July, reports surfaced suggesting he could be on his way to Arsenal in pursuit of first-team football.[7] Despite this, he came on as a substitute for Chelsea in the 2007 FA Community Shield. 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.[8]

Arsenal[edit]

Diarra training during his time at Arsenal.

On 31 August 2007, transfer deadline day, he signed for Arsenal for an undisclosed fee.[9] He was given the number 8 shirt, vacated by the departure of winger Fredrik 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.[10] 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. He then started his first Premier League match for Arsenal against Wigan Athletic on 24 November 2007.[11] 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,[12] Diarra signed for Portsmouth in January 2008 after only five months at Arsenal for an undisclosed fee believed to be around £5.5 million.[13]

Portsmouth[edit]

Diarra signed for Portsmouth on 17 January 2008.[14][15] He was given his first start against Derby County,[16] 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,[17] and his first Premier League goal two weeks later, a controversial late winner against Bolton Wanderers.[18] Diarra went on to play in every minute of Portsmouth's remaining FA Cup matches en route to claiming the trophy in the final.[19][20][21][22] He topped the season by being included in the France squad for UEFA 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."[23] He played in the 2008 Community Shield against Manchester United, missing in the penalty shootout, which was won by United. On 18 September 2008, he scored Pompey's first-ever goal in a major European competition against Vitória de Guimarães,[24] 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.[25]

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 the transfer of Diarra on 1 January 2009 for a fee of around €20 million (£18.88 million), subject to a medical.[26][26] and €20 million transfer was agreed five days later.[27] 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. Lassana Diarra's 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[28][29] by 1 February 2009, and eventually Diarra was selected to play in the competition.[30]

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. Lassana Diarra scored his first official goal for Madrid in the 2009–10 La Liga 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 had been transfer listed by Madrid.[31] However, manager José Mourinho included Diarra in his starting lineup for the first game of the 2010–11 La Liga season.[32] 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 Diarra as a starter.[33]

Diarra in 2012 alongside Mesut Özil and Ángel Di María.

After speculation of Diarra leaving Real Madrid during the summer 2011 transfer window, during which he did not participate in the team's pre-season,[34] Diarra finally stayed at the club, wearing the number 24 jersey after Sami Khedira had taken number 6 and Mesut Özil number 10 during the summer.

Diarra had a decent 2011–12 season, culminating in winning the La Liga title with the club. He participated in the team's 2012 pre-season, 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, Diarra was linked to join Russian side Spartak Moscow.[35] On transfer deadline day, 31 August 2012, Diarra joined Anzhi Makhachkala on a four-year deal for an undisclosed fee.[36] He was originally meant to join merely on loan,[37] but the club decided to make the deal permanent. After joining Anzhi, Diarra made an explanation that he joined the club, claiming that Samuel Eto'o persuaded him to join and insisted money was not the reason he joined.[38]

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 Diarra's services; Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain were thought to be interested in taking him back to France. However, he eventually signed a four-year contract with Lokomotiv Moscow on 20 August 2013, taking the number 85 shirt. He became the second most expensive transfer in Lokomotiv's history behind only Mbark Boussoufa, who was signed by the club from Anzhi Makhachkala in the summer of 2013 for €15m. Despite being sent off twice in his first matches for his new club against Zenit Saint Petersburg and Tom Tomsk respectively, Diarra quickly established himself in starting eleven, claiming one of two usual holding midfielder's posts alongside Dmitri Tarasov. In his first months at Lokomotiv, Diarra provided so many solid performances that someone even claimed that he was the strongest player in the history of the Russian Premier League. His growing influence in the team became acknowledged: in November and December 2013, he topped the monthly poll among Lokomotiv fans in social networks and received the Player of the Month award twice in a row. After the winter break, Diarra played only five out of eleven matches and his performances were a lot below the usual level.[39][40][41]

Things turned sour for Diarra at Lokomotiv in the summer of 2014, when he fell out with head coach Leonid Kuchuk. Matters came to a head when the club wanted to reduce Diarra's salary but he refused and even refused to turn up for training. Lokomotiv dismissed Diarra in August 2014 on the grounds of his refusal to show up for training, with his contract set to expire only in 2017. It even sought damages from Diarra for breach of contract and managed to get FIFA to ban him from playing professionally for another club as long as his contractual dispute with it was not settled. Kuchuk was eventually sacked by the club in September 2014.[42][43]

After Diarra left the club, there were several months of speculation linking Diarra with signing for one of several, major European football clubs, notably Glasgow Celtic, Inter Milan, Newcastle United, Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United.[44]

On 28 May 2016, Diarra was ordered to pay a 10 million euro fine to Lokomotiv Moscow for breach of contract by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), along with €110,000 to the CAS. He was also slapped with a 15-month suspension from playing professional football and suspension of payment of salary, both of which he had already served.[45]

Marseille[edit]

On 24 July 2015, Diarra signed for French Ligue 1 side Marseille. After he left Lokomotiv Moscow in August 2014, FIFA banned him from playing professionally for another club pending the settlement of his contractual dispute with Lokomotiv.[46][47] Diarra made his debut for Marseille on 23 August and scored his first goal in a 6–0 victory over Troyes, while also achieving a 100 percent pass completion.[48] At the end of the 2015–16 season, Diarra was named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Season by the UNFP.[49]

On 11 August 2016, Diarra was named as the club's new captain, replacing Steve Mandanda who had earlier joined Crystal Palace.[50] Following Rudi García's appointment as new Marseille manager in October, however, Diarra's commitment to the club was questioned and he was later stripped of his captaincy in favour of loanee, Bafétimbi Gomis.[51]

International career[edit]

Youth team[edit]

Diarra won 18 caps for the France under-21s. Perhaps his most notable performance came in the 2006 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualification play-offs second-leg match against England at the Stade Marcel Picot in November 2005. With the match several minutes from full-time and seemingly destined for extra time (the aggregate score was 2–2), he received the ball in the England penalty box, where a challenge from Kieran Richardson brought Diarra down. A penalty was given for the foul, and Diarra's teammate Jimmy Briand scored the penalty, shooting the ball past Scott Carson. France won the tie 3-2 on aggregate and thus qualified for the finals to be held in Portugal.[52][53]

Senior team[edit]

Diarra was selected for the senior team by coach Raymond Domenech for a UEFA Euro 2008 qualifier away to Lithuania on 24 March 2007. He started the match, alongside Claude Makélélé and Jérémy Toulalan in midfield, and played the full 90 minutes.[54] He was also selected that year for a friendly match against Austria on 28 March 2007.[55] Diarra's consistent club performances in 2008 resulted in him being picked for the France squad for Euro 2008, ahead of high-calibre players such as Djibril Cissé and Mathieu Flamini.[23] France was eliminated in the group stage of Euro 2008 and Diarra did not feature in any of his country's three group stage matches.[56][57][58]

Following the international retirement of fellow defensive midfielder Claude Makélélé, Diarra was called up for Domenech's France squad in the 20 August 2008 friendly with Sweden.[59] By the end of the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, Diarra had made 26 appearances for France.[60]

On 11 May 2010, Diarra 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. On 22 May, however, 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 his suffering severe intestinal pain and stomach cramps as a result of the altitude. A follow-up medical check revealed that Diarra would require rest for an indefinite period.[61] His club, Real Madrid, later revealed that Diarra was resting at home following medical advice due to asthenic syndrome secondary to sickle-cell anemia, a genetic blood disorder characterized by red blood cells that assume an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape.[62]

After an absence of over five years, Diarra received a surprise recall to the French team following a fine run of form at the beginning of the 2015–16 season. Upon announcing his return to the squad, France manager Didier Deschamps highlighted Diarra's performances in a struggling Marseille side as the reason behind his inclusion.[63]

On 12 May 2016, Diarra was named in the France squad for UEFA Euro 2016. On 30 May 2016, he played the first half of the friendly match against Cameroon and was replaced at half-time by N'Golo Kanté.[64] However, Diarra later was forced to pull out of the squad because of a swelling in his left knee. He was replaced by Manchester United's Morgan Schneiderlin[65]

Playing style[edit]

Diarra has unusually good ball control for a defensive midfielder and has been praised for his physical strength in defense.[66] Due to his versatility, Madrid’s La Sexta television commentators refer to him as a "todocampista," or "jack of all trades."[67]

Personal life[edit]

Diarra is a practising Muslim. On 13 November 2015, his cousin Asta Diakité was killed during a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris. At the time, Diarra was playing for France in an international friendly against Germany at the Stade de France, just north of Paris in Saint-Denis.[68] Three suicide bombers failed to mount an attack on the stadium.

Career statistics[edit]

Club[edit]

As of 8 May 2016[69][70]
Club Season League Cup Champions League Europa League Total
Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists
Le Havre 2004–05 29 0 0 1 0 0 30 0 0
Total 29 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 30 0 0
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
2007–08 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0
Total 13 0 0 11 0 0 7 0 1 0 0 0 31 0 1
Arsenal 2007–08 7 0 0 3 0 0 3 0 0 13 0 0
Total 7 0 0 3 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 13 0 0
Portsmouth 2007–08 12 1 0 5 1 0 17 2 0
2008–09 12 0 0 1 0 0 2 1 0 15 1 0
Total 24 1 0 6 1 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 32 3 0
Real Madrid 2008–09 19 0 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 21 0 3
2009–10 23 1 1 1 0 0 6 0 0 30 1 1
2010–11 26 0 2 3 0 1 10 0 1 39 0 4
2011–12 17 0 0 4 0 0 4 0 1 25 0 1
2012–13 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0
Total 87 1 6 8 0 1 22 0 1 0 0 0 117 1 9
Anzhi Makhachkala 2012–13 14 0 0 3 1 0 7 0 0 24 1 0
2013–14 4 0 0 0 0 0 4 0
Total 18 0 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 7 0 0 28 1 0
Lokomotiv Moscow 2013–14 17 1 1 0 0 0 17 1 1
Total 17 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 17 1 1
Marseille 2015-16 25 1 2 2 0 0 4 0 0 31 1 2
Total 25 1 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 31 1 2
Career Total 220 4 8 34 2 1 32 0 2 13 1 0 299 7 12

International[edit]

(Correct as of 30 May 2016)[60]
National team Season Apps Goals
France 2007 9 0
2008 7 0
2009 10 0
2010 2 0
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015 3 0
2016 3 0
Total 34 0

Honours[edit]

Club[edit]

Chelsea
Portsmouth
Real Madrid

Individual[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Steve Mandanda
Marseille captain
2016–present
Succeeded by
Incumbent