SPECIAL REPORT: Bamba Dieng woke up on deadline day with no idea where his career was heading… but many in the game believe he got what was coming to him when he failed a medical at Nice after snubbing a move to Leeds
- Marseille striker Bamba Dieng made late u-turn on decision to join Leeds
- Leeds were expecting to sign the striker but he chose to pursue a move to Nice
- He then failed a medical at Nice due to knee issue which saw the switch collapse
- Dieng could still complete the move to Nice due to ‘joker rule’ in France
Bamba Dieng arrived at a private airport in Nice ready to board a 3.30pm flight on a plush jet laid on by Leeds so he could complete a £10million move to Elland Road. By this point, Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani had already welcomed the Marseille attacker on Twitter. Done deal? Not quite.
Many believe Dieng, having decided to renege on a move to Leeds, got exactly what was coming to him after his transfer to Nice collapsed over a failed medical in an episode that will be remembered as one of the most bizarre in deadline day history. But before you take glee in the fact a footballer’s burgeoning career has been left in turmoil, there are a couple of things to consider.
Firstly, Dieng is 22 – he’s young, he’ll make mistakes – though that is unlikely to invoke much sympathy from Leeds who were apoplectic at the Senegal international’s U-turn. The forward arrived in France from Africa less than two years ago, Marseille plucking him from a footballing academy in his homeland – the pressurised industry of football transfers a world away from what he is used to.
Bamba Dieng was turned down a move in favour of a switch to Nice but then failed a medical
Secondly, consider his subsequent failed medical for what has been described to Sportsmail as a significant knee problem and the obstacles that now poses to a career that’s barely got started. Of course, there are those who will readily ignore any mitigation and believe karma simply caught up with Dieng.
But if we are talking about karma, we shouldn’t forget that Radrizzani admitted he was ‘ashamed’ earlier this summer when he reneged on an agreement to sell Raphinha to Chelsea after the player made clear he wanted to join Barcelona instead. That’s business. That’s football.
However, as Dieng woke up on Friday morning he did so having no idea where his career was headed. That is a frightening thought for anyone.
Leeds’ interest came to light early on Thursday morning; intermediary Saif Rubie receiving an SOS from Angus Kinnear, Leeds’s chief executive, expressing the club’s interest in completing a deal for Dieng. The Yorkshire club originally hoped to sign Cody Gakpo – but it became clear on Wednesday that extracting him from PSV Eindhoven was going to be impossible.
Leeds had set up a private jet to fly Dieng over to England ahead of a proposed transfer
Earlier in the week, Rubie, who is based in the United Arab Emirates, was in London to oversee West Ham’s club record capture of Lucas Paqueta. And on Thursday morning, the intermediary was again sat in a French airport ready to board flight to England to facilitate deals for two Premier League clubs ahead of the 11pm deadline.
But when Kinnear’s message arrived, Rubie dropped everything. The Premier League club agreed a fee with Marseille in under 30 minutes, while Rubie, along with Dieng’s agent Seydou Bocar Seck, quickly agreed personal terms.
Marseille’s president Pablo Longoria had long been open to selling Dieng, who’d been frozen out of the first-team picture by recently appointed coach Igor Tudor, much to the bemusement of the club’s supporters. It wasn’t hard to see why Marseille’s fans admired Dieng; he’d managed nine goals and three assists in 46 appearances for the club.
His spectacular overhead kick against Strasbourg one of the goals of the Ligue 1 season last term.
Similarly, he is already a hero in Senegal after helping his country win the Africa Cup of Nations in January. Had manager Jorge Sampaoli not departed Marseille in July due to a disagreement over transfers then Dieng would be playing a key role for the French giants today.
Dieng is a hero in Senegal as he helped the team win the Africa Cup of Nations in Janurary
But the circumstances at Marseille have changed, as has the course of Dieng’s career. Prior to Leeds’ interest, Everton, Nottingham Forest and Fulham all held talks but ultimately decided they wanted players with greater experience. French clubs – Nice among them – had also registered an interest with Marseille.
Indeed, Nice was always viewed as an attractive option for Dieng – he liked their project, funded by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe’s vast wealth. However, Dieng decided on Wednesday night that he would stay at Marseille, backing himself to break into Tudor’s plans.
But then news of Leeds’ proposal emerged and suddenly he was swapping the south of France for Yorkshire. Dieng dashed to Marseille’s La Commanderie training HQ on Thursday morning to bid his colleagues farewell before making the 100-mile trip to Nice to catch the flight provided by Leeds.
In the interim, Rubie – already in Nice – was finalising all the necessary paperwork and keeping in regular dialogue with Kinnear and Leeds sporting director Victor Orta ahead of Dieng’s scheduled arrival. But then came the hijack. There was already concern that news of Leeds’ agreement with Marseille would bring other clubs to the table.
Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani said the club had been ‘screwed’ on social media
That scenario would certainly benefit Marseille, who were keen to listen to other offers for their player. Nice’s approach on Thursday arrived three weeks after they originally registered their interest in Dieng and is believed to have been led by Iain Moody, the former Crystal Palace sporting director who is now an external advisor to the Ligue 1 side.
By now Dieng had arrived at the private airport in Nice ready to board his flight. But his head was in a scramble. He was attracted by Leeds, certainly by the Premier League. But Nice offered him more stability, particularly important in a World Cup year.
Unfortunately for Leeds his head was turned. It was left to Rubie to break the news to Leeds. As you can imagine, Leeds were fuming – Orta said to be particularly irate. Radrizzani took to social media again just after 7.30pm to say Leeds had been ‘screwed’. It’s hard to disagree.
‘Victor Orta and Angus Kinnear were impeccable, there were no issues with Leeds,’ Rubie told Sportsmail. ‘It was unfortunate that the situation was handled in the way it was and ultimately the player decides what his preference is.’ Dieng, Rubie and Bocar Seck eventually arrived at Nice’s HQ at around 7pm. They were greeted in the reception with a giant wall hanging with a quote from Ratcliffe that urges the players to ‘show the world what they can do’. Little did Dieng know what was to come.
Saif Rubie (middle) with West Ham’s Lucas Paqueta (right) and his agent Alexandre Uram
Back in West Yorkshire, Leeds worked to seal a late deal with Wilfried Gnonto from FC Zurich, signing the 18-year-old striker for £3.8million before the deadline. They had initially earmarked the Italian forward as one for the future earlier in the window but had to move quick after the Dieng deal collapsed.
Ironically, Rubie was involved in Demba Ba’s now infamous failed medical at Stoke in 2011. That was over a knee problem, too. The similarities in both those failed deals are uncanny and isn’t lost on Rubie. But Dieng should take comfort in the success that Ba went on to have, hopefully his career can take on a similar trajectory.
On Friday morning Dieng, Nice and Marseille were trying frantically to revive the transfer under what is known as the ‘joker rule’ that allows clubs to sign one player outside of the window provided it’s a transaction between two French teams. But for Dieng this joker deal is no laughing matter.
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