Welcome back to Where Are They Now? where I spend my Monday taking potshots at crap Premier League players of the past. It’s fun and makes me feel good about myself, don’t judge me.
I’m a Liverpool fan therefore I almost have an authority when it comes to talking about crap Premier League players of the past (waves at Sean Dundee and Anthony Le Tallec) and this week we’re going to talk about one of the worst – Salif Diao or, as Gerard Houllier put it, the ‘new Vieira’. Oh dear Gerard…
Signed from Sedan in France just before the 2002 World Cup, Diao impressed with his all-action displays for Senegal at the tournament. But that means absolutely nothing now as El Hadji Diouf looked incredible during the tournament too and we all know how that ended. Still, Liverpool had the next star Premier League midfielder on their hands.
Poor Salif was not very good as it turned out and was completely out of his depth in central midfield. The only obvious thing to do then to hide his deficiencies was to throw him in as a centre back. Which Houllier did. It was a disaster as well. Remember when Rodgers played Emre Can as a centre back? It was like that only a million times worse because Diao was crap. He managed 40 games in his debut season though and popped up with a couple of rubbish goals.
Injuries hit Salif hard as did his lack of ability in 2003/04 where he played a grand total of seven games. Houllier’s departure gave Salif a chance under Rafa Benitez who promptly put him in midfield a few times. He realised what a stupid idea that was when Salif tried a backheel at Craven Cottage and gave away a goal. He was hooked at half time by some lad named Xabi Alonso. Nope, never heard of him either.
Once Rafa clicked on Salif was a bit garbage, he loaned him out to Birmingham then Portsmouth where he barely played thanks to injury and a general crapness. Salif eventually found his home in 2006 when he joined Tony Pulis’ Stoke City. Somehow Tactic Tony decided that Salif was good enough to keep around for six years as a nice little decoration for the bench. He’d occasionally trot out for an appearance fee before retiring in 2012. It was a surprise to me as I’d forgotten about his existence altogether.
And that is the painfully tortuous story of Salif Diao in the Premier League. He’ll always be a reminder of the horrors of Houllier and the story that Jamie Carragher tried to convince Salif to join Everton on loan because he’d make them worse. Salif was recently quoted as saying that the best thing he gets about playing for Liverpool is fans coming up to him and saying, “thank you Salif for what you did for the club”.
He conveniently forgot the end of their sentence, “by leaving”.
As always, I’ll finish with some YouTube clips of our profiled ‘star’ but this week it is just a solitary clip because it’s so weird. Here’s a man celebrating Salif’s appearance in the background of a Stoke celebration. Enjoy…