Speaking exclusively to France Football, former Bolton and Liverpool attacker El Hadji Diouf named his dream XI.
Tony Sylva (goalkeeper – ex-Lille, Trabzonspor, Monaco & Senegal)
He is a man for the big occasions. In a meaningless game, when scouts of big clubs will come, they will say “this goalkeeper is not at all good.” He was Monaco’s third goalkeeper and, during the 2002 World Cup, he was one of the three goalkeepers (for Senegal). When it comes to a penalty shootout, he’s the player who can make you win the game.
Omar Daf (right-back – ex-Sochaux, Brest & Senegal)
I got to know him at youth level at Sochaux. I was in the U17s, he was in the reserves. He had an apartment, whilst I was living in the centre with Camel Meriem, Benoît Pedretti… Since that day, right until the end of his career, he has always been at the top level. Very calm, hard-working and efficient. And he reminded me of a Dani Alves, having been a #10 but playing on as a right-back. With the in-game intelligence he had… It was extraordinary.
Abdoulaye Faye (central defender – ex-Bolton Wanderers, Stoke City, RC Lens, West Ham, Hull & Senegal)
I played with him at Bolton. He played for Istres, who were relegated. Sam Allardyce called me to ask me if I could get us to sign Amdy Faye. I told him that this was not what we needed and I that I was going to get him someone who nobody knew, and who could play as a #6 and a central defender: Abdoulaye Faye. With Bolton, we finished 5th in the league and he had an extraordinary season. He only had a six months or one year contract. He stayed at Bolton for three years before going to Newcastle with Sam Allardyce. He is the best central defender I have seen.
Pape Malick Diop (central defender – ex-Lorient, Guingamp & Senegal)
I played with him at the 2002 World Cup. He had extraordinary intelligence. He would read eyes. He reminded me of Roger Mendy. And for me, the best central defender in the history of football was Roger Mendy (ex-Toulon & Monaco player in the 1980s & 1990s).
Ricardo Gardiner (left-back – ex-Bolton & Jamaica)
The Jamaican who played with me at Bolton. The man is an unremitting defender. He could run for 90 minutes. Technically very strong, very successful with crosses and assists. Honestly, at training, I struggled to beat him. And that is very rare.
Papa Bouba Diop (central midfielder – ex-Fulham, Portsmouth, West Ham, Birmingham, Senegal)
A hard-worker. An immense player. On the big occasions, he was always there. Each time, he could score you a crucial goal, like against France (1st game of the 2002 World Cup). In life, you don’t hear him, but on the pitch, he expresses himself. In his attitude, he is a player like Messi.
Camel Meriem (central midfielder – ex-Sochaux, Bordeaux, Monaco, Apollon Limassol)
I did my youth career with him. And, honestly, ohlalala… I couldn’t figure out if he’s a right or left footer. It was joyous to watch him play. He is my Zinedine Zidane.
Henri Camara (right midfielder – ex-Sedan, Wolves, Panetolikos, Wigan)
The top scorer in Senegalese football history. He knew what he wanted. He was there to break records, score goals and to help others score. Because the majority of the goals that I scored, he gave them to me.
Khalilou Fadiga (left midfielder – ex-Club Brugge, Auxerre, Senegal)
The magic left-footer. Someone who I loved to watch. He was capable of finding you wherever you were on the pitch. He has made careers of players all alone. The fact that Djibril Cissé has become who he is, for example, he owes Fadiga a lot.
Jay-Jay Okocha (attacking midfielder – ex-Frankfurt, PSG, Bolton & Nigeria)
Behind the striker, I would put the maestro, the best player in the world, the best player of all time if he was not African. Everyone’s idol. The African Pelé.
Nicolas Anelka (striker – ex-Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea & France)
France detested him. France did not want to get to know him and only saw bad things about him. Someone with a heart of gold, with whom I have had extraordinary experiences. A man above all, a footballer, better than any French strikers in however many years.