Olympique de Marseilles midfielder Lassana Diarra was named in the 2015/16 Ligue 1 Team of the Year for an outstanding campaign that led to him being recalled to the French national team after a five-year absence. The 31-year-old’s career was spiralling following a failed spell in Russia and subsequent year out of the game due to a contract dispute with a former club, but he returned to the French top-flight in fantastic shape and has since taken the league by storm.
It had been 10 years since Diarra last played in his native country, and from the off he looked right at home. Marseilles endured a disappointing league campaign, having been threatened with relegation in the second-half of the season following an 11-game winless run, but two wins in May ended any chance of them going down. Diarra’s performances remained at a top level despite the club’s struggles, and it led to a return to the French side five years on from his last international appearance.
He’s since added three caps to the 30 accumulated before, and could be in line for one last big move to a European giant if rumours are to be believed. He’s put his name back on the map after being in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year, while also making the shortlist for Ligue Player of the Year. And when looking at Diarra’s skill-set, it’s not hard to see why so many clubs will be keen on his signature in the summer.
Marseilles’ toils this season are likely to see the 31-year-old seek a new challenge – something he’s recently admitted – and Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur and Serie A champions Juventus have been linked with his signature. He was quoted as saying: “There is a great chance I leave Marseille. We will see. I’ve never spoken to other clubs. I hear a lot of things, I say nothing.”
He’s made 25 appearances in Ligue 1 this season, averaging a tackle or interception every 17 minutes. Diarra has been more of a box-to-box player for Marseilles as they’ve been bereft of quality in the middle of the park, and he’s made 75 successful dribbles, and boasts an 87% pass completion ratio. Various reports have suggested he could leave the Stade Vélodrome on a free transfer this summer, so he’s sure to be inundated with offers. Diarra is back as one of Europe’s best defensive midfielders, but where will he end up at the end of the campaign?