Lassana Diarra (born 10 March 1985 in Paris, France) is a French footballer who currently plays for Spanish La Liga club Real Madrid and the French national team. His predominant position is defensive midfielder but he can also play in a more advanced role and has played at right back, which he did for Chelsea and currently for France.
In Spain, he is known as Lass to distinguish him from Real Madrid teammate Mahamadou Diarra, with whom he is not related.
Diarra was turned down by several football clubs as a youngster. FC Nantes deemed him too "small and lightweight" to succeed at 170 cm and 58 kg (5'7" and 9 stone). Diarra admitted he thought his "football career was over". His next stop was Le Mans UC, where Diarra claimed they "didn't seem to care" about him.
Diarra's footballing career finally began at Le Havre, a French football team currently in the Second Division. Outstanding in his defensive midfield role, his reputation started to grow and impressive performances saw his selection to the French U-21 squad. Along with the reputation came interest from other clubs, and Chelsea became potential suitors. With Chelsea's Claude Makélélé not getting any younger, Chelsea's wide network of scouts tagged Diarra as the "new Makélélé" and the club promptly paid £1 million for his services in July 2005.
Diarra joined Chelsea's first team squad in the 2005-06 season, but did not get much first team football. His Chelsea debut came in the UEFA Champions League in October 2005, when he was given a brief run out as a substitute when Chelsea were 4-0 up against Real Betis. However, he was not expecting to come straight into the side. Learning from Makelele, a master of his position, Diarra improved throughout the season, showing impressively when playing for the reserve team. He played well against Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup third round, winning rave reviews from both managers, teammates, and media sources. He became a bit part player in Chelsea's first team and also completed the full 90 minutes in Chelsea's last two games of the season at Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United, as manager José Mourinho rotated his squad.
Diarra was named Chelsea's young player of the season for 2005–06. Due to Chelsea's defensive injury setbacks during the 2006–07 season, he was often asked to play at right-back. He played full Premiership games against Blackburn Rovers, Charlton Athletic, and Middlesbrough, with some success, and also started in Chelsea's win over Arsenal in the League Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium. On 29 July, reports surfaced suggesting he could be on his way to Arsenal in pursuit of first-team football. His contract with Chelsea was due to expire in January 2008, and having made no move to extend it, Chelsea sold him to Arsenal on 31 August 2007, before he could leave on a free transfer.
Diarra during his period
On 31 August 2007, transfer deadline day, Diarra signed for Arsenal for an undisclosed fee. He was given the number 8 shirt, vacated by the departure of winger Fredrik Ljungberg. On his move across London, he cited Gunners manager Arsène Wenger as one of the main reasons for joining the club, along with the style of football played by Arsenal. Wenger had called the young Frenchman a "multi-functional player", and a good addition to the squad.
Diarra made his Arsenal debut as a late substitute in the home leg of the 2007–08 Champions League group stage match against Sevilla FC, and his full debut against Newcastle United in the third round of the League Cup. Diarra started his first Premier League match for Arsenal against Aston Villa.
With the emergence of defensive midfielder Mathieu Flamini in the Arsenal side, Diarra saw only limited action in the early months of the season. Having expressed concerns that he was not playing enough first team football , Diarra signed for Portsmouth in January 2008 after only 5 months at Arsenal for an undisclosed fee believed to be around £5.5 million.
Diarra signed for Portsmouth on 17 January 2008. He was given his first start against Derby, contributing to a 3-1 win at Fratton Park, wearing the number 6 shirt. He scored his first goal for the club in the following match, against FA Cup Fourth Round Championship opponents Plymouth Argyle, and his first Premier League goal two weeks later, a late winner against Bolton Wanderers. Diarra went on to play in every minute of Portsmouth's remaining FA Cup matches FA Cup 2007-2008 en route to claiming the trophy in the final. He topped the season by being included in the France squad for Euro 2008; this and the FA Cup win arguably vindicated his decision to part company with Arsenal, Diarra himself saying that it had "more than justified my decision." He played in the 2008 Community Shield against Manchester United, missing in the penalty shoot out which was won by United. On September 18, 2008 he scored Pompey's first ever goal in a major European competition against Vitória Guimaraes, his third and final goal for the club. The first red card of Diarra's Premiership career came on 28 September 2008 when he was booked twice against Tottenham Hotspur at Fratton Park. In mid December 2008, Portsmouth agreed a fee with Real Madrid subject to medical that he would join them on 1 January 2009 for a fee of around €20 million (£18.88 million).
Portsmouth announced on 17 December 2008 that they had accepted a "substantial" offer from Real Madrid for Diarra's services and £20 million transfer was agreed five days later. He was assigned the number 6 shirt of Mahamadou Diarra for domestic competitions as the Malian midfielder was out with a season-ending injury. He wears the name Lass on the back of his shirt to avoid confusion. His transfer was officially completed on 1 January 2009, the opening of the transfer window. He was assigned the number 39 for the Champions League, and then the number 10 shirt after Wesley Sneijder moved to Inter Milan and Mahamadou Diarra came back from injury.
Diarra's performance for Real Madrid in his first few months earned him a spot among the starting eleven on UEFA's 2008/09 La Liga Breakthrough Team. The Madridista joined Sevilla's Perotti as the only foreigner on the list. According to the UEFA website, Lass "joined Real Madrid in the winter transfer window with a very low profile, although in a few short months he managed to convince the demanding Madridista fan base."
Diarra scored his first official goal for Real in the 2009-2010 La Liga season opener against Deportivo, providing his side with their final goal in a 3-2 win.
Diarra's physical strength gives him the ability to provide defensive cover anywhere on the pitch, and he also has great ball control, providing many assists for his teammates". Due to his versatility, Madrid’s La Sexta television commentators refer to him as a 'todocampista' or a jack of all trades. He persistently runs down opposing players and fights for the ball, winning possession for his team.
Diarra won eighteen caps for the France U-21s. Perhaps his most notable performance came in a UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship qualifying match against England in November 2005. With the game deep into stoppage time and seemingly destined for extra time (the aggregate score was 2–2), Diarra received the ball in the England penalty area. A challenge from Kieran Richardson saw Diarra go down, and a penalty was given. His French teammate Jimmy Briand scored the penalty past Scott Carson and France qualified.
Diarra was selected for the French national football team by coach Raymond Domenech for a 2008 Euro qualifier away to Lithuania on 24 March 2007. He started the match, alongside Claude Makélélé and Jérémy Toulalan also in midfield, and played the full 90 minutes. He was also selected that year for a friendly match against Austria on 28 March 2007. Diarra's consistent club performances in 2008 meant that he was picked for the France squad for Euro 2008, ahead of high-calibre players such as Djibril Cissé and Mathieu Flamini. However, with France failing to progress beyond the group stages, Diarra did not feature in any of their three matches. Following the international retirement of fellow defensive midfielder Makélélé, he was called up for Raymond Domenech's France squad in the 20 August 2008 friendly with Sweden.
By the end of the 2010 World Cup Qualifying campaign, Diarra had made 26 appearances for France. On 11 May 2010, Diarra was named to the preliminary squad of Domenech's squad to play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He was later named to the shortened list of players and was slated to be a starter alongside Jérémy Toulalan in the midfield. However, on 22 May, while training with the national team in the high-altitude commune of Tignes, it was announced that Diarra was dropping out of the squad due to suffering severe intestinal pain and stomach cramps as a result of the altitude. A follow-up medical check reveal that the injury requires a significant amount of rest. His parent club, Real Madrid, later revealed that Diarra's injury was due to asthenic syndrome secondary related to sickle-cell anemia, a genetic blood disorder characterized by red blood cells that assume an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape.
(correct as of 18 April 2010)
Club Season League Cup Europe Total
Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists
Le Havre 2003–04 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2004–05 29 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 29 0 0
Total 29 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 29 0 0
Chelsea 2005–06 3 0 0 2 0 0 2 0 0 7 0 0
2006–07 10 0 0 8 0 0 5 0 1 23 0 1
Total 13 0 0 10 0 0 7 0 1 30 0 1
Arsenal 2007-08 7 0 0 3 0 0 3 0 0 13 0 0
Total 7 0 0 3 0 0 3 0 0 13 0 0
Portsmouth 2007-08 12 1 0 5 1 0 0 0 0 17 2 0
2008-09 12 0 0 1 0 0 2 1 0 15 1 0
Total 24 1 0 6 1 0 2 1 0 33 3 0
Real Madrid 2008–09 19 0 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 21 0 3
2009–10 23 1 1 1 0 0 6 0 0 30 1 1
Total 42 1 4 1 0 0 8 0 0 51 1 4
Career Total 115 2 4 20 1 0 20 1 1 155 4 5
(Correct as of 5 March)
National team Season Apps Goals Assists
France 2006–07 3 0 0
2007–08 10 0 0
2008–09 7 0 0
2009–10 7 0 0
Total 27 0 0
Winner (1): 2007
Winner (1): 2007
Winner (1): 2008
Chelsea Young Player of the Year: 2005-2006