Fulham midfielder Papa Bouba Diop maintains he is “very, very happy” at Fulham – but accepts there is little he can do about speculation linking him with a move away from Craven Cottage.
The 6ft 4ins Senegal midfielder produced another impressive display against Blackburn last weekend, returning from suspension to score the opening goal in the 2-1 home win.
The 27-year-old was signed from French side Lens for an undisclosed fee – believed to be £2million – during July 2004, and after proving himself comfortable in the top flight has since continually been linked with a big-money transfer.
Arsenal have yet to replace skipper Patrick Vieira, and are said to be keeping tabs on Diop’s progress. Fulham boss Chris Coleman recently declared it would take a “hefty ransom” for the club to even think about letting one of their prized assets leave.
Diop, however, insists his focus remains on helping Fulham climb the table rather than speculation on his own future.
“I am very, very happy here,” Diop declared.
“I like where I live, am really content with my surroundings and am very happy at Fulham.
“Everything you read is speculation and there is nothing I can do to prevent that. That’s football.
“If people are taking note – be it the general public or the media – it must mean that I’m doing something good on the pitch.
“But I am not happy to stand still. I’ll always want to progress and keep proving myself as a player so that people talk about me even more.
“If people make good remarks, it shows I’m working hard and working well.”
It is not the first time Diop has had to deal with being linked to a switch to one of the sport’s glamour clubs.
Nicknamed ‘The Wardrobe’ because of such an intimidating presence in midfield, the Senegal international found himself centre stage after his goal beat defending champions France in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup in the Far East.
However, because of Lens’ reluctance to sell – with the likes of Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich all said to be showing a keen interest – a deal never materialised and Diop’s form suffered as a consequence.
And when Portsmouth delayed their decision on whether to sign him following a trail, Coleman was only too happy to step in.
Despite the best efforts of Diop, who has two-and-a-half more years to run on his contract, Senegal were unable to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, and will look to a good run at the African Nations Cup to try to restore their wounded pride.
Coleman admits the absence of one of his key men for several weeks will be a “big loss” such is the impact of Diop on the Fulham side, and he expects him to recover soon after being forced off with an ankle problem against Rovers.
“We can play him sitting in front of the defence or in midfield pushing forward. He is good on pieces, and sticks his foot in,” said Coleman.
“He has got great strength, scores goals – there is not another like him.”
The Fulham boss recalled: “I first saw him play for Senegal against France in the World Cup, and he did not give Vieira a kick, and scored as well.
“I watched him later when he was playing in France, and had always been impressed with him.
“He has improved since he has been here, and when he goes to the African Nations Cup in January, it is a big loss to us, but we don’t complain and we get on with it.
“Providing we have got everybody else fit, we will be okay.”