Ex-West Ham boss Harry Redknapp: Paul Scholes hated playing against Papa Bouba Diop - he was so important to that great Portsmouth team

Harry Redknapp today paid tribute to ‘gentle giant’ Papa Bouba Diop, who has passed away at the age of 42.

Monday, 30th November 2020, 11:03 am
Former Pompey boss Harry Redknapp has paid tribute to Papa Bouba Diop, following his death. Picture: Steve Reid
Former Pompey boss Harry Redknapp has paid tribute to Papa Bouba Diop, following his death. Picture: Steve Reid

As Pompey boss, he brought Diop to Fratton Park from Fulham in August 2007 for £3.5m.

It was a case of second-time lucky for Redknapp, who’d had the powerful midfielder on a week’s trial from Lens in 2004 – only for the Cottagers to nip in and instead secure his signature.

Still, Diop would make 72 appearances for the Blues and featured as a substitute in their 2008 FA Cup triumph.

He told The News: ‘It was so sad to hear that news last night, I couldn’t believe it.

‘Papa was such a great character, a lovely fella, and a very important player for me in my time at Pompey.

‘I remember the first time he came over, he spent a week with us and I was going to sign him – then suddenly he ended up at Fulham. But I got him eventually.

‘Every day he had a big smile on his face, always happy, I never saw him angry or nasty, he was just a lovely, lovely boy. It looked like he appreciated everything in his life.

‘The time I was at Pompey, every day you looked forward to seeing him, he was one of those lads, never had a minute’s problem with him. A gentle giant.

‘You wouldn’t want to play against Papa. Paul Scholes put him in the top three hardest opponents and last night I was talking to my son, Jamie, and he said the same thing. He ran all over you.

‘Papa was so powerful and a great header of the ball. When he came over on trial, a cross came in and he got a foot above Arry De Zeeuw and headed one in the top corner like a rocket. Not many people beat De Zeeuw in the air.’

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Redknapp quit as Pompey boss to join Spurs in October 2008, ending his association with Diop.

The midfielder would remain at Fratton Park until July 2010, when he was sold to AEK Athens following Premier League relegation and the club in administration.

Yet Redknapp admitted the pair remained in touch, regularly speaking on the phone.

He added: ‘Papa used to call me quite regularly for a chat: “Boss, how are you doing?”.

‘I hadn't heard from him for about six months and was thinking about him a week or two ago, wondering how the big man was, because he used to ring me regularly

‘He never mentioned to me about not being well, that was a surprise to me.

‘He loved his time at Pompey, that’s for sure. I never had a minute’s problem with him, he never complained, he always seemed to appreciate how good his life was.

‘I don’t know Papa’s background, but he probably came from quite a humble beginning and he appreciated anything.

‘He was a fantastic boy.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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