Lassana Diarra – From Chelsea and Real Madrid to obscurity and back

Football in France has taken something of a back seat in recent days after the atrocities committed in Paris on Friday night, with midfielder Lassana Diarra just one of thousands of people directly affected by the callous acts of terrorism.

The Olympique de Marseille man’s cousin was one of the victims of the cowardly attacks on the French capital, in a saddening turn of events for the 30-year-old.

On the field, Diarra’s career has been one of distinct highs and lows, with the combustive box-to-box man operating at the game’s pinnacle but also fading into obscurity.

It was at Chelsea that the Paris-born battler first progressed into the public eye, with the former Le Harve man rivalling more distinguished team-mates in breaking into the Blues’ side.

While Diarra at that time was widely regarded as a superstar of the future, the chance to play was not always guaranteed in West London and a somewhat controversial move across the city to rivals Arsenal did not work out for the star.

Again struggling for consistent time on the pitch with the Gunners, the at-times outspoken midfielder opted to move away from the Premier League’s elite in favour of regular action with Portsmouth.

Diarra has openly spoken about his decision to leave Arsenal after less than six months at the club, and accredits the decision as a key factor in igniting his career.

From the relatively modest surrounds of Fratton Park, impressive displays for Pompey saw the Frenchman coveted by plenty of big teams, with one of the world’s grandest in Real Madrid securing his signature.

Over three years on the Spanish giants books, Diarra played in Clasico fixtures, was a solid member of Los Blancos’ side and won a La Liga title and Copa del Rey crown.

A feature in Les Blues’ side also, the midfielder had seemingly reached the game’s summit after trying circumstances.

Lassana DiarraHowever, managerial changes and internal politics at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu saw Diarra marginalised in 2012 and a somewhat strange move to Russian nouveau riche Anzhi Makhachkala.

He switched to Lokomotiv Moscow soon after due to the former club’s financial struggles, where a fallout with manager Leonid Kuchuk left Diarra in the wilderness.

The Parisian’s decision to walk out on the Russian club saw contractual disputes and an entire 12 months without competitive football for a player in his prime with Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid listed as former clubs.

When he was finally released by Lokomotiv after a year without action, Diarra headed back to France to sign for a transitional Marseille side, with more stars heading out the door than arriving at the Stade Vélodrome.

The 30-year-old has deputised for the impressive Giannelli Imbula, who moved to Porto, and has quickly shown signs that he is back to his best.

Despite the south coast club losing a host of top players and Marcelo Bielsa’s decision to stand down as coach, the team continues to hold its own – with Diarra a key reason.

The all-action midfielder has also played his way back into Didier Deschamps’ French national squad after a five-year absence, with a real chance of inclusion next summer at Euro 2016 on home soil.

Competition for places is intense in the French boiler room, with impressive components such as Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi almost guaranteed a starting berth.

However, Deschamps has clearly recognised that he needs players of quality that are getting the chance to feature week-in, week-out at club level and that are excelling – all of which Diarra is currently doing.

The star’s career has seemingly come full circle, with this impressive midfield star back in the limelight where he belongs.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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