Wednesday, 20 June 2012

When The Sun Comes Up

West Ham United have completed their third summer signing with Mohamed Diame agreeing to join the Premier League new boys on a three-year deal. The Senegal midfielder will move as a free agent at the beginning of next month when his current deal ends with Wigan Athletic. Diame had been linked with a number of top-flight clubs and had already held talks with Liverpool before the sacking of Kenny Dalglish by owners Fenway Sports Group. "I met with the then manager and we talked about next season but God decided to finish this situation," explained Diame. "It is true I was very sad in my head as I was thinking to go there but that is OK as I think I have got other opportunities to go to another club. I am free and not everybody is free in this moment like a midfield player like me and that is why I have got a lot of clubs interested in me."

It is no exaggeration to say West Ham boss Sam Allardyce had to beat off a host of European and domestic suitors to ensure the 25-year-old became the latest new face to arrive this summer after Stephen Henderson and Jussi Jaaskelainen. The Hammers boss met with the player in London this week, the culmination of a second round of protracted negotiations with Diame admitting the decisive factor was a desire to stay in the Premier League. "I had to be composed and make a good decision for my future," he said, before revealing he had offers from Spain, France and Turkey. Arsenal, Tottenham, Aston Villa, Sunderland and QPR are all thought to have tracked the player, while Manchester United reportedly pulled out of a move due to concerns over an arrhythmogenic heart condition. Wigan only became aware of the problem after Diame signed and have always kept a defibrillator close to the touchline.

"Diame is a good player and he is a good lad and we were disappointed that he did not sign a new contract for Wigan to be honest because he could not get a club in Spain when he was there three years," lamented Wigan chairman Dave Whelan. "So he is available on a free. He unfortunately has the problem with his ticker – his heart – and that is a serious problem. We have always addressed it and sort of helped him along with it. You have to keep that heart machine within 50 yards of him all the time. We picked him up when Barcelona had refused him because of his heart and we took the chance and brought him over and I don’t think that he has repaid the faith that we put in him and the chance we gave."

Diame, who it is understood was put through a stringent cardiac medical by a top London specialist, started his career at Racing Club de Lens in 2003 but left four years later after facing alarming health problems. After a full recovery, he signed for lowly Spanish side CD Linares in 2007, and moved to Rayo Vallecano the following year, helping the Madrid-based team to a mid-table position in the Segunda DivisiĆ³n. His big €3.8million cash-plus-player move to the Premier League followed in 2009 and he made an immediate impression with a strong performance on his debut against Manchester United just hours after signing. Diame went on to notch up 89 appearances during his stint at the DW Stadium, scoring seven goals.

Despite a string of impressive performances on the pitch, the French-born Senegalese international acknowledges he has at times struggled with life in England, telling a French football magazine last year he was frustrated with a lack of activity in Lancashire. "The truth about life in Wigan is that there is nothing to do," he said. "It is a crappy place. The town is tiny, and there is no atmosphere. I go in to training, I return home afterwards, and that is all I do. There is absolutely no comparison between Wigan and Madrid. I was happy there – it is a capital city, and I guess it is the same as any capital. After training I was able to go for a peaceful stroll. It was never really cold over there. But as for here – don’t get me started! When it snowed I felt like the temperature was minus 15, and feared I was going to turn into an ice cube. It is rare to see truly beautiful girls when you go out during the day. But it’s a different story when you go out in the evening. The girls seem to cover themselves up all day, only to be in good-looking mode at night. In Madrid I had the impression that all the women were beautiful."

It is not surprising, therefore, that Diame is eagerly anticipating the various new opportunities awaiting him in London. He said: "I'm very happy and very excited to have joined the club and I'm looking forward to the start of the season. I know the fans here get behind the team all the time and I'm looking forward to showing everybody what I can do on the pitch." The man affectionately known as 'Momo' will meet up with his new team-mates at Chadwell Heath on 1 July for the Hammers' first day of pre-season training before flying out on the club's trip to Austria the following day. The 6'1" midfielder will compete with the likes of Kevin Nolan, Gary O'Neil, Jack Collison and reigning Hammer of the Year Mark Noble for a place in the heart of midfield. Allardyce will have to decide who will be his first-choice selections but he has no doubt his latest acquisition will prove a great signing. The West Ham boss said: "His potential is really good and he's ready to go and compete in the first team straight away, as he's had three years in the Premier League already. He's 25 and can only get better and I hope he can go on to prove that to me and all of the West Ham United fans. He will be a very exciting addition to the squad."

The excitement comes in the form of boundless enthusiastic application, the respected IMScouting's network of scouts describing Diame as: "an aggressive, tireless worker in the centre of the field. He controls with both feet, which makes it easy for him to escape pressure and send accurate long balls to the attack. His greatest ability is aerial domination, as he has a very good natural jump. He is also technically skilled, knows when to release the ball at the right time which is very important for his position and he can join the attack on set pieces. Diame has perfect tactical positioning, just in front of the defensive line and he almost never loses his position," before concluding, "he is a strong and true fighter."

For someone who has refused to give up on his dreams in the face of ineffable challenges and innumerable rejections never has an assessment been so apposite. Only seven Premier League players completed more tackles per game than Diame last season (3.2 average) - one of which was ex-Hammers captain Scott Parker. Diame, himself, has a more colourful explanation for the exigent hunger that drives him, recounting with a huge smile the proverb his Dakar-born father taught him:

"Every morning a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you better start running."


Jordy said...

Nice read about a very exciting sounding signing. I hope he can give us the energy we sometimes lack in midfield, although if I was Gary O'Neill I think I would be a little worried now.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember seeing him play that much but he sounds like the type of chararacter we will love, and the perfect replacement for Papa Bouba Diop.

LucasWHU said...

Isn't there a moral issue involved in signing a player who could very conceivably collapse and die on the football pitch? I know that it is his choice to play but the thought of something like that happening to someone wearing a Hammers shirt makes me very uneasy, not least because of our history with Foe. I can imagine a lot of very difficult questions coming our way if faced with such an eventuality.

Anonymous said...

If Diame is willing to take the risk then so should we providing all the required medical precautions are in place. We have obviously given the guy a full MOT and have proceeded in accordance with the independent findings so I can't see a problem to be honest. The rest is in the lap of the gods as it is for all of us.


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