Ever since he first arrived on British shores following his £10 million move from Lens to Liverpool in 2002, few modern footballers have attracted quite as much controversy as Senegalese front man El Hadji Diouf.
Gerard Houllier was clearly sufficiently impressed by Diouf’s performances during Senegal’s impressive run to the World Cup quarter finals in Japan and Korea, and considered him worth the significant financial outlay.
Diouf remained on Merseyside for three years, his time at the club marred by four separate allegations of spitting at opposing players and fans, two of which occurred during his time on loan at Bolton Wanderers. These spitting claims, which have turned Diouf into a figure of hate for most supporters, clearly did not defer Wanderers however who signed him permanently in 2005.
Despite continuing antics that continued to question his character and made him so frightfully unpopular with anyone but regulars at the Reebok, his time at Bolton proved to be mostly a success. He moved on later to Sunderland for a spell that lasted just six months, before settling down again under the tutelage of manager Sam Allardyce at Blackburn.
As the North West outfit’s pre-season preparations began prior to the current season, Diouf incurred the full wrath of new boss Steve Kean having apparently reported late for training, culminating in the mutually agreed termination of his contract.
So having missed a considerable slice of the opening of the new English season, El Hadji Diouf has found himself beginning the latest chapter of his eventful career in the unfamiliar surroundings of the Keepmoat Stadium, home of Championship strugglers Doncaster Rovers.
Before questioning the benefits of this move for each of the relevant parties, it is vital to mention the context that underpins it.
The club recently entered into an agreement with football agent Willie Mackay, a deal that gives most of the transfer power to Mackay who has pledged to bring a plethora of disgruntled, high-profile players from all over Europe who are currently contractually unattached or out of favour to Doncaster on short-term deals, with new manager Dean Saunders only really given the power to veto.
The theory behind the deal is that the players in question will get regular playing time while placing themselves firmly in the shop window for bigger clubs while Doncaster obviously reap the rewards of having players of a supposedly higher standard wearing the red and white hoops, while only paying a maximum of £2,000 of the existing salaries for their loaned stars.
Diouf is the third player to arrive at ‘Donny’ as part of this agreement, with Herita Ilunga having joined on a loan deal from West Ham earlier in the season and the unattached Pascal Chimbonda having signed on more recently, the Frenchman having last played for newly promoted Queens Park Rangers.
In the very immediate short-term, providing he can steer clear of any further controversy (which for a man of Diouf’s considerable reputation is no mean feat) this could be a deal which will benefit Doncaster. Despite his obvious shortcomings Diouf is a player whose quality suggests he should be amongst the best in the Championship.
However given the nature of this rather bizarre deal with Mackay, it is very unlikely Diouf will remain in South Yorkshire beyond the three-month spell he has initially joined for. Presumably even Diouf will recognise this as a brief platform to showcase his largely forgotten talents, and he will expect to be back in the Premier League very shortly.
So with that in mind, for Diouf this would appear to be a good situation, bar any further misdemeanours of course. Whether this deal and others of a similar ilk represent an equally good situation for the club and its supporters however, largely depends on your viewpoint.
In theory the club should benefit from a smorgasbord of new talent arriving, but it is unknown how the constant chopping and changing of personnel may affect the team once Mackay agreement gets into full swing. There are simply no guarantees it will be beneficial, and relegation (at the time of writing Doncaster are rooted to the foot of the Championship) would be disastrous.
Personally, I was a great admirer of Doncaster before recent events, their penchant for playing attractive football on a modest budget brought the club and loyal manager many plaudits. Since rashly dispensing of the services of Sean O’Driscoll and entering into such a deal with Mackay, who has admitted he is only in it for personal financial gain, precarious times look to be lying ahead, which is a great shame for a once modest club.