In this week’s edition of our weekly Where Are They Now? Segment we look at one of the key players of the 2011/2012 season in the form of Papa Bouba Diop, but why was he so important during that promotion? And where is he now?
Papa Bouba Diop
The now 39-year-old began his career in The Senegal Premier League with Ndeffann Saltigue, before later moving to ASC Diaraf in the same Division. However, Diop’s career was soon to take a major turn when, after a few seasons in the Swiss lower leagues, Grasshoppers came calling. The midfielder would have a successful time with the Swiss giants, and made the step up to Ligue 1 in France with Lens in 2002.
In that same year, the physical player scored the landmark first ever Senegal goal in a World Cup in the country’s first ever World Cup match against France. Meanwhile, Diop’s club-career was going from strength to strength and a move to the Premier League would be just around the corner.
Fulham finally snapped up the Senegalese international in 2004, and he was an instant hit in English football. Diop went on to become one of the finest Premier League midfielders of the Noughties, winning Fulham’s Opta Player of the Season award in 2006 and gaining the club captaincy from 2005 to 2006. However, on Deadline Day, summer 2007, The Cottagers sold the 39-year-old to rivals Portsmouth. Diop would go onto help Pompey to FA Cup glory in his first-season at Fratton Park, but would be sold onto AEK Athens just three-years later.
His time in Greece would turn out to be short-lived and injury hit, and he would leave the Greek top-flight with few notable highlights to speak of. However, the Senegalese would soon return to the country that he made his name in, as the twilight of his career dawned. New manager Sam Allardyce made Diop one of his first Hammers signings in late August 2011, as our bid for promotion from the Championship began. The tall-versatile midfielder would go on to play a key role in our Play-Off promotion, with several strong performances throughout the season. The veteran’s stand-out performance in Claret & Blue came in the 1-0 home victory over Barnsley, where he powered an early header to give us a vital win.
Despite his positive Hammers start, Diop struggled to break into the starting Xl late on in the season and was subsequently released in May 2012, after our promotion back to the Premier League. A few months later, the former Fulham man would sign under the management of former teammate Lee Clark at Birmingham City, but he would only last a few months in the Midlands and call it a day on his career in January 2013 as injuries took their toll.
Nowadays, Pape Bouba Diop is working as a football pundit in his home country, and will go down in history as the first of a long line of Hammers stars from the African Nation of Senegal.