Friday, September 2, 2011

Lassana Diarra

Lassana "Lass" Diarra (born 10 March 1985 in Paris) is a French footballer who currently plays for Real Madrid. 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 clubs Chelsea, as well as France.
Diarra was turned down by football clubs as a youngster. FC Nantes deemed him too "small and lightweight" to succeed at 170 cm and 58 kg (5'7" and 9 stone). Diarra admitted he thought his "football career was over". His next stop was Le Mans UC, where Diarra claimed they "didn't seem to care" about him.
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 U-21 squad. Along with the reputation came interest from other clubs, and Chelsea became potential suitors. With Chelsea's Claude Makélélé not getting any younger, Chelsea's wide network of scouts tagged Diarra as the "new Makélélé" and the club promptly paid £1 million for his services in July 2005.
Diarra was in Chelsea's first team squad in the 2005–06 season, but did not get 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. However, he was not expecting to come straight into the side. Learning from Makélélé, a master of his position, Diarra improved throughout the season, showing impressively when playing for the reserve team. He played well against Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup third round, winning rave reviews from both managers, teammates, and media sources. 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, as manager José Mourinho rotated his squad. Diarra was named Chelsea's young player of the season for 2005–06. Due to Chelsea's defensive injury setbacks during the 2006–07 season, he was often asked to play at right-back. He played full Premiership games against Blackburn Rovers, Charlton Athletic, and Middlesbrough, with some success, and also started in Chelsea's win over Arsenal in the League Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium. On 29 July, reports surfaced suggesting he could be on his way to Arsenal in pursuit of first-team football. 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.
On 31 August 2007, transfer deadline day, Diarra signed for Arsenal for an undisclosed fee.He was given the number 8 shirt, vacated by the departure of winger Freddie 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.

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. Diarra started his first Premier League match for Arsenal against Aston Villa.

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, Diarra signed for Portsmouth in January 2008 after only 5 months at Arsenal for an undisclosed fee believed to be around £5.5 million.
Diarra signed for Portsmouth on 17 January 2008. He was given his first start against Derby County,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,and his first Premier League goal two weeks later, a controversial late winner against Bolton Wanderers. Diarra went on to play in every minute of Portsmouth's remaining FA Cup matches FA Cup 2007-2008 en route to claiming the trophy in the final. He topped the season by being included in the France squad for 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.He played in the 2008 Community Shield against Manchester United, missing in the penalty shoot out which was won by United. On 18 September 2008 he scored Pompey's first ever goal in a major European competition against Vitória Guimaraes,his third and final goal for the club. The first red card of Diarra's Premiership career came on 28 September 2008 when he was booked twice against Tottenham Hotspur at Fratton Park. In mid December 2008, Portsmouth agreed a fee with Real Madrid subject to medical that he would join them on 1 January 2009 for a fee of around €20 million (£18.88 million).
Portsmouth announced on 17 December 2008 that they had accepted a "substantial" offer from Real Madrid C.F. for Diarra's services and €20 million transfer was agreed five days later.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 wears the name Lass on the back of his shirt to avoid confusion with Mahamadou. His transfer was officially completed on 1 January 2009, the opening of the transfer window.

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