The protracted transfer saga of Djibril Cisse has finally come to an end. The French international, who joined Liverpool in the summer of 2004, has made the permanent move to Marseille after signing a five-year contract. The exact terms of the fee haven’t been announced, but it’s expected to be somewhere around £6 million. For weeks, there had been various reported interest from England and Spain, but the lure of Champions League football and a return home may have been a dealbreakers.
While his potential was never fully realized in a red shirt, he played with energy and I wish him well. Whether it was the sheer pace, the extensive body ink and ever-changing, eclectic hairstyles (or a combination of it all), I’ve always been oddly fond of Djibril despite his downsides.
The seeds were sewn the summer before he arrived when Houllier was still wooing him. Looking back, it was obviously that Ged had a serious Player Crush on Cisse. (A Player Crush is a non-homosexual crush, a lot like a Man Crush, where the manager becomes absolutely smitten with a player and his abilites, blind to any faults or shortcomings)
Ged had been chasing his signature relentlessly for a year before it was even announced that Cisse would come to Liverpool… the following summer. So, for a full season, all we heard was how fast and strong this cat was, how he was lighting up France’s Ligue 1 (26 goals in 38 games) and the incredible impact he was going to have on the Premiership. Every few months, Auxerre fossil/manager Guy Roux would stoke the fire, by speaking glowingly about the player Liverpool were going to get.
I bought into all the hype; Hook, line and sinker.
That next summer, Houllier was fired. But, Cisse’s £14 million transfer had already been lined up and still went through. The Frenchman arrived as the most expensive Liverpool player ever bought. Problem was, new manager Rafael Benitez hadn’t been around for any of the brain-washing hype. One gets the sense that he was never keen on Cisse and would have preferred to spent the £14m on players of his choosing.
Djibril never really got going at Anfield, only showing flashes of the promised brilliance, often a result of his blazing speed. It wasn’t but a few months into career, during an October match at Blackburn, when he suffered a nasty double fracture of his left leg. Cisse would later credit the medical staff for saving his leg with their quick response and actually returned to action later that season, in April, as a substitute against Juventus.
Djibril played in nine more games that season, finishing with four league goals and one in the Champions League. He ended up making the bench for the CL Final against Milan and even converted a penalty that night, capping an incredible comeback from a devastating injury.
I suppose a lot of the reason I’ve been partial to the Frenchman is due to the fact that he has battled back TWICE from nightmare injuries. It’s one thing to make it back on the pitch after a double fracture in one leg. But, to have to repeat the same fate after snapping the other leg in much the same fashion, only a year and a half later? Many players wouldn’t have made it.
All due credit to the medical professionals and backroom training staff who played a massive role in his rehabilitation, but I admire the fact that Cisse has fought his way back onto the pitch in both instances. It’s this sort of desire and mental toughness I want to see at Liverpool, and although he may not have ended up performing exactly how we’d hoped he would, I’ll always root for Djibril.
Not that it was all roses. As his frustration with Rafa’s use (or misuse) of his talents grew, so did the frequency of his on-field pouting and scowling. There were also incidents of assault, one with his pregnant wife and another with an autograph-seeking 15-year old. Quite simply, there is no defending these type of actions and it’s always unpleasant to hear about them. It becomes even more uncomfortable when it’s somebody you want to root for; It tends to leave a sour taste where a sweetness was once enjoyed.
He did, however, get married in Liverpool red tux.
In his second season at Anfield, Cisse’s output was substantially better. Although he often found himself played out-of-position on the right flank, as opposed to up top, he managed to notch 19 goals for the campaign. Nine of those were in the league, 2 in the FA Cup (including a spectactular finish in the Final) and eight in Europe.
We can’t forget Cisse’s FA Cup Final goal versus West Ham:
Unfortunately, mere weeks later, in France’s run-up to the 2006 World Cup, Cisse would endure yet another double fracture, this time on the right leg.
My apologies if you’re weak of heart or stomach….
The injury wasn’t enough to end his playing career, but it did bring an end to his time at Liverpool. Olympique Marseille had been sniffing around the unsettled Cisse for months, and the Frenchman wasn’t happy with Rafa. Everything was in place for a move back home on loan for the upcoming season. Shockingly, the French club stuck by the player and the loan deal after the injury and Djibril did his rehab in France.
Djib returned to the field in December of 2006 and ended the season with fourteen goals in 23 appearances, including four in the final seven league games and two in the French Cup Final. Now, he continues his career back in his homeland and the league he once dominated.
Despite the love-hate relationship they may have developed between Djibril and a large section of Liverpool fans, I wish him the best of luck in the future and thank him for the memories.
I leave you with an enjoyable five-minute video of Cisse from the excellent ‘100 Players Who Shook the Kop’ series.