Football News caught up with former France captain and West Ham United defensive midfielder Alou Diarra to talk about the player’s immediate future, as well as his thoughts on France’s recent World Cup campaign.
Born: 15th July 1981
Current Club: None
Previous Clubs: Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Lens, Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille, West Ham United, Le Havre (loan), SC Bastia (loan), Lens (loan)
The memories you keep with you from West Ham, are they primarily good or bad?
Mixed, in all honesty, in terms of football (sportingly) it was not positive. I learnt some things over there, I had a good relationship with the fans, I saw the great passion surrounding this club. But personally, in terms of football, I did not have a good record there. I arrived at club that didn’t want me there. I was very badly advised. my philosophy and style of play was basically incompatible with the philosophy of the manager in place. I had to match a desired profile, which was to support to the squad, but that was all, nothing more. I learnt nothing in terms of football (sportingly) when I was at West Ham. I do not want to blame anyone, the coach had his own style which he had implemented for several years. It turns out that in the end, it was a very bad career choice for me.
You were under contract until 2015, why did you terminate it a year early?
I’m a competitor and the game time that I was receiving at West Ham was not enough. I was not satisfied in the first year. The second year I tried to make an effort but nothing changed. I think it is for the benefit of both parties, to terminate the deal amicably and leave on good terms; because aside from the fact that in terms of football the deal did not work, I have a good relationship with the club. I couldn’t not stay in such a situation any longer. I am a competitor first and foremost, I have aims to fulfil. I did not sign for West Ham to get a good salary and sit on the bench. I want to enjoy the remaining years of my career. I am still invert good psychological and physical shape. It was difficult to coexist with a manager who did not play with the same philosophy as I. We did not have the same footballing vision. I remained profession throughout in terms of my commitment and nobody can say otherwise. Sadly, I did not progress enough in this team; the manager had his plans and I was not part of them.
Is a move back to France a necessity for you now?
Not necessarily, but I would not exclude it. I think what happened to me at West Ham happens to many players who do not share the same ideas as their coach. I think I could have avoided this move to West Ham by… No, actually, I don’t want to talk about the past. What is done is done, I think about the future and the present now. I am ready for a new challenge, a real footballing challenge. I am motivated by the idea of competing again and I want to share my experience too.
What do you think awaits you next season?
At a footballing level, I see myself on the pitch, I see myself competing. I would like to join a club that plays continental football if possible. If it is not a club that plays in Europe, I will compete for that club with the same ambition, a project and a manager who knows my qualities. That is what I am waiting for. I am hungry to compete, because that is what I have been missing in the last two years. I cannot wait to play every weekend and make sure I stay at the best physical level possible. I am ready to face a new challenge.
Are there clubs in contact with your agents as we speak?
Yes of course there are interested clubs. I am not in a hurry to make my decision, I want to make the best possible choice and have the backing of everyone at that club before committing myself to something. There are contacts but I will take my time to look at offers. My aim is to be in competition for the start of next season but to integrate into my new club as soon as possible. I’ll weight up all the pros and cons and discuss with people so that the mishap that happened to me at West Ham cannot happen again.
You are training with Bordeaux at the moment, do you think it is a possibility that you will be playing there next season?
(He laughs) That is up to the club to decide. Everybody known the affection that I have for this club. It is the club where I spent the best moments of my career, one that I respect enormously, one that I owe a lot to, that allowed to play at a very high level. There is a mutual respect between myself and the club, that remains. The fact that they have allowed to me train with them to improve my physical condition is for me a great sign of respect, something that I appreciate enormously. It is too early to talk about a possible arrival at Bordeaux, but I want to prepare myself as well as possible. I am very happy to be able to join Bordeaux to prepare. It is like coming home. I am delighted to be here.
What are your aims for next season?
First and foremost, to put myself into a club with ambition, with a real project, where I have a role to play. The European cups have always attracted me. Joining a club that plays in Europe is certainly part of my aims yes. I have missed that enormously when I was at West Ham and I would like to get that feeling again that allows me to play at a European level. It gives teams prestige. To go to a club that is either qualifying for or already in a European cup for me would be the best possible choice I could make.
What are your thoughts on Les Bleus’ performances at the World Cup?
To reach the quarter finals of a World Cup is something very positive. Certainly, they had a playable group, regardless of that, in the matches, you have to turn up. The played with verve and they have left Brazil with a good image. I think it is a good omen. The squad has really been refreshed, with youngsters have integrated well like Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, and players who have joined the squad with maturity already such as Blaise Matuidi, Yohan Cabaye and Karim Benzema. It is a team that can progress even more. They have shown their potential during this World Cup. Now, they have to go and realise it but we can feel fortunate and hopeful for the future of Les Bleus because we have some very good youngsters. There is a framework in place, a solid group and a very good manager who is a real leader of men and who can make his mark. If the team remains humble, continues to progress and achieve its aims, they can have a good Euro 2016. The aim should be to go all the way and win it, with it being at home of course. The experience at Brazil will help a lot of these youngsters who played in their first major international competition. The future could be beautiful if they keep the same will and realise their potential.
We know that you have a good relationship with Laurent Blanc. Could you see yourself at PSG at some point?
(He laughs) No! I don’t think so, not right now. It would a magnificent opportunity to play for a team like PSG, who have the financial means and wingspan that they have today. But as I have said, I am a down to earth individual, ambitious but not stupid either. (He laughs again) Today my aim is- after having not played for two years- to try and find very quickly the feeling of competing again and to find a club that will give me my chance and an opportunity to express myself at my highest level.