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One to watch: West Ham’s 21-year-old centre-back Issa Diop

Issa Diop
Photo: Getty Images

One to Watch

One to watch: West Ham’s 21-year-old centre-back Issa Diop

Introducing The Boot Room’s 2018/19 One to Watch series…

Issa Diop arrives at West Ham at just 21, yes.

But, contrary to the average 21-year-old centre-back, the Frenchman is a veteran of almost 100 senior appearances in Ligue 1.

For that reason, Diop did not come cheaply for the Hammers.

His £22 million club record fee presented a sizeable outlay, but also a commitment to the future – whether that be years of service, or resale value remains to be seen.

Play Style

Most importantly, the Frenchman is an imposing figure.

He is tall. At almost 6”4’ though, he remains extremely athletic. Physically, he should transition well into Premier League football.

But he is clever and assured too. He is generally a calculated style of centre-back that looks to nip in to steal the ball rather than being a crunching tackler.

(Photo by West Ham United FC/West Ham United via Getty Images)

He is a leader too, captaining Toulouse despite being one of the youngest players in the squad.

But it made sense, he is so level-headed in his approach to defending, and so reliable.


Furthermore, he should endear himself to West Ham fans with his willingness to throw his body in front of shots.

At times, he is very last-gasp in his defensive efforts.

Season Ahead

Manuel Pellegrini is excited to have the 21-year-old at West Ham this season.

“Issa is a defender with great talent and character. He is only 21 but he has already established himself as a key player over a period of time with Toulouse,” Pellegrini told the club website.

“We believe he has defensive qualities that will be well suited to the Premier League – pace, power and a sharp concentration – and I also feel he will complement the other central defenders we have.”

Diop is expected to start West Ham’s first league game – a difficult visit to Anfield – that will be the start of a tough new season in a new league in a new country.

But he has the mental fortitude and the footballing quality to be a massive hit in east London.

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