20 Nov 18
ISSA DIOP has revealed how his move to West Ham has allowed him to become a beast of a defender – and end his reputation as one of the bad-boys of French football.
Hammers star Diop caught the eye of Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho this season after the centre-back’s imposing display against his team.
Issa Diop has banished his reputation as one of the bad boys of French football since moving to West Ham
Mourinho bemoaned how his scouts could have missed a player he labelled as a “Monster” for his impact at the London Stadium.
But before his move to the Premier League the 6ft 4in star was gaining more of a reputation for getting into trouble with referees – after collecting 25 yellow cards in his fledgling career.
He was also sent off twice – yet since moving to England the giant has only been booked once and is now showing there is far more to his game.
Diop said: “I’ve had one yellow card. In France? 25. And two red!
Issa Diop now works with lonely pensioners in the community around West Ham
France Under-21 defender Issa Diop was hailed by Jose Mourinho after his no-nonsense display against Manchester United two months ago
“Maybe referees here are more cool than in France.
“But maybe sometime you can take five yellow cards in six games and sometimes in 20 games you can take zero. If you come back in six months maybe I will have ten yellow cards.”
Issa Diop challenges Ashley Young as West Ham landed their best win of the season so far, 3-1 against Man Utd at the Olympic Stadium in September
Diop has been a major plus point from West Ham‘s stuttering start to the season following his £22million move from Toulouse.
Mourinho’s rave reviews have been followed by more impressive displays – yet the softly spoken Frenchman feels he still hasn’t played well for his new club.
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And he has set his sights on making the improvements needed to earn a call-up to the French squad, having already represented his country at all age group levels from schoolboy upwards.
He added: “I think played normal against United, not like a monster.
“I’ve not played well. I need to improve and I hope I improve quick.
“Maybe people have said I have been impressive, but we concede so many goals. For me I know I can do more and I can play better.
Toulouse-born tough guy Issa Diop has been a tower of strength for the Hammers
“Of course I want to play in the first team of France one day and I hope I can do this with West Ham.
“I played through the age group sides with Mbappe, Dembele, Rabiot, Kimpembe, Lemar, Hernandez. First I am happy for them. Also I want to play with them in the France team.
“Mbappe is very quick. Sometimes I won the battle. Sometimes not. He is very smart. He has all the qualities of a big player. If you make just one mistake it’s a goal.”
Issa Diop developed alongside superstars like Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele and is now keen to join them in the France senior team
Diop was speaking as part of his involvement in West Ham’s The Players’ Project – which sees all players throughout the club work with schemes in the community.
The defender has chosen to work with lonely pensioners in the area, because having come from a large family he recognises the need for people not to feel isolated.
“It’s part of the reason why. I am from a big family. I know how important it is to have that support in a big family.”
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