Born: 28 January 1978, Dakar, Senegal
Died: Paris, 29 November 2020 (aged 42)
Position: Defensive midfielder/central midfielder
International caps: 63
International goals: 11
Signed: 27 July 2004 from Lens (£6m)
Fulham debut: Manchester City 1-1 Fulham, 14 August 2004
Fulham appearances: 84
Fulham goals: 11
Sold: 31 August 2007 to Portsmouth (£3.5m)
Papa Bouba Diop burst on the world’s consciousness by scoring the winner as Senegal stunned defending champions France in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup. Fulham’s capture of the imposing defensive midfielder from Lens two years later – pipping a piqued Portsmouth at the post – was something of a coup and Diop quickly became a cult hero at Craven Cottage. Tenacious in the tackle, but a gentle giant off the field, the man mountain affectionately known as ‘the Wardrobe’ seemed to specialise in long-range strikes. He opened his Fulham account with a blockbuster from distance to briefly equalise in the SW6 derby against Chelsea, but his most memorable effort came in injury-time to rescue a point against Manchester United in December 2004.
Diop was a consistent performance for two and half seasons in the Craven Cottage midfield – popping up with vital goals and was named Fulham’s player of the year for 2005-06. Injuries and the arrival of Danny Murphy dented his playing time and, despite turning down a move to Wigan and helping the Whites avoid relegation from the top flight, he did leave Craven Cottage for Portsmouth on transfer deadline day in the summer of 2007. He remained enormously popular with the Fulham faithful and his tragic death, aged just 42, was a devastating loss.