"The disappointment has been El-Hadji Diouf because he has great potential but has never shown consistency. On occasions he has not given a good impression of the club, and that has no doubt in my mind affected people’s views." The words of Gerard Houllier a year ago, after his Anfield reign came to an end. In his view the £10m signing of the Senegalese striker was the worst decision he made as the Reds boss. Today the player joined Bolton Wanderers for an undisclosed fee.
When Rafael Benitez came in as boss Diouf was already an outcast. Whether it was the Spaniard’s own decision or one that was made by Chief Executive Rick Parry, El Hadji Diouf was never to play for Liverpool again. He lost his squad number and went on loan to Bolton. Spitting at a Celtic fan during an away UEFA Cup tie for Liverpool probably ensured he would never play at Anfield again. Scoring 6 goals in 80 games after costing so much money wasn’t going to earn him any sympathy.
There’s no doubt the player has talent – not £10m worth of talent, but talent nonetheless. What he doesn’t have though is a decent temperament, the ability to rise above the gamesmanship he’ll get from opponents. He was booked for Liverpool more than he scored.
Sam Allardyce, Bolton manager, is willing to give Diouf the chance to prove he can put the bad side of his game to bed and show the world just how good he can be. Allardyce has the patience, and an older squad than that at Anfield. Diouf is a youngster at Bolton at 24 years old.
He helped Bolton make it into the UEFA Cup last season, as Bolton continue to progress under manager Allardyce. Big Sam has had a limited budget, and will have fought to get Diouf as cheaply as possible. The fee being talked about earlier this year was £2m, quite a loss for Liverpool.
Allardyce is ready to help his newest player. He told Bolton’s official website: "He has had a turbulent last few years, but now he can take all that pressure off his shoulders and concentrate on playing football at the highest level. Last season he was a revelation and no-one more than himself relished the opportunity of resurrecting his career with us."
Diouf was chosen ahead of Nicolas Anelka by Gerard Houllier after a successful World Cup run with Senegal, but just did not perform at Anfield. Allardyce thinks he can get the world talking about the former African footballer of the year again: "We will give him the platform he needs to become one of Europe’s top strikers again – that’s how much confidence I have in the lad. He has all the skills in the world to become one of our most significant signings in the modern era of this great club."
Diouf’s departure will be a weight off the mind of Liverpool, not to mention a weight off the wage bill. The player himself is overjoyed that the move has gone through. He said: "It is wonderful news that I will be joining Bolton. Sam Allardyce is the best manager I’ve ever worked with. He makes you feel important and most of all lets you play football without worrying about anything else."