Over the years, Sunderland have seen the good, the bad and the ugly side of central defenders over the years, with Steve Bould and Charlie Hurley the only two that played magnificently during their time here.
It was a very disappointing season, one where defensively we were fragile and bare in numbers, but since the turn of the summer Paolo Di Canio has already began his quest to bulk up the squad.
One name that looks to have turned a few heads is the towering centre-half Modibo Diakité, but what do we know about him?
Born in Bourg-la-Reine, France, he began his career at Pescara where he would develop his talents through their youth system. Remarkably, aged 19, he made his debut for the Serie B outfit on May 28, 2006 against Mantova at the Stadio Adriatico, his one and only senior appearance for the club.
His ability didn’t go unnoticed however, and Italian giants Lazio acquired his services for 300,000 Euros. It was here where the rollercoaster of Diakité’s career began.
During his first season, his progression would be somewhat frustrating, of course not expecting to walk immediately into the starting eleven, he was restricted to only three senior appearances with his debut coming against Udinese at the Stadio Friuli.
His long awaited first start came against Fiorentina, where he could have capped off a dream performance with a goal, but was sadly disallowed. Alas, that season Lazio would go on to finish not only third place in Serie A but was guaranteed UEFA Champions League football, the next season however wouldn’t run as smoothly.
Injury would rule the 6’4” defender out for the entire 2007-08 season when he broke his tibia in the first game of the season, but the following campaign would prove a monument step forward where he made a number of appearances followed by his first senior goal, helping his side collect a point and coming back from 3-0 down against Udinese.
This resulted in a five year contract, which then paved the way to help secure his first piece of silverware in the Coppa Italia and the following season Diakité was given more time to collect minutes and progress during his time in Italy. He would go on to make 88 appearances for the club in total, scoring two goals during his seven year stay before being released.
Diakité would originally seek to stay in Rome, however his last season would be shrouded in controversy. Contract negotiations with Lazio were ended because they would not offer the wages he was looking for. Whilst that may sound like he is another greedy mercenary, reports suggested he was unhappy with his wage as the other defenders were on considerably higher salaries. The Lazio ultras did not take kindly to this, torching two of his cars and damaging his father-in-laws'.
As much as a great piece of business this may be, many of the Italian football followers have a very mixed opinion about him, with some complimenting his frame, strength and power. However, something that may be slightly worrying is the criticism pointing towards his lack of concentration during games. Here are some quotes from Lazio fans we spoke to;
“Diakité is a player with great physicality and powerful with a good header. It is not always very attentive and focused. I think this is his worse flaw, tactically he is not the best.”
“Diakité will be a good Premier League player, he is really strong physically, has good speed and height."
“He’s mediocre technically, so he’s not able to start the playmaking phase. His biggest problem to me is his lack of concentration.
“He’s capable of good games but then he loses his man who could score a goal at times. Although in the past year here when he did play almost regularly, he limited his concentration problems.”
So, mixed reviews there then. But that was a under a totally different league and manager, Paolo Di Canio will demand nothing but quality and tactical awareness from the 26-year-old.
No doubt that with his early arrival, it will give the Italian plenty of time to mould him into the player that will complement John O’Shea and turn out consistent performances, something that Sunderland fans have been craving recently and a sight that they will all enjoy.