The surprising Portsmouth player Manchester United legend Paul Scholes simply hated playing against

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Paul Scholes has rubbed shoulders with some of the greatest players to have ever played.

In an illustrious 20-year career at Manchester United – where he won 11 Premier League titles, two European Cups and four FA Cups – the former England international faced a who’s who of elite players.

He’s had midfield battles with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Andrea Pirlo and Steven Gerrard – just to name just a few – and is regarded as one of the best players of his generation.

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Yet Scholes revealed that no other than Papa Bouba Diop was one of the trickiest opponents he used to come up against.

The Senegalese joined Pompey from Fulham in 2007 and was nicknamed ‘The Wardrobe' because of his imposing stature.

Diop helped Harry Redknapp’s side capture the FA Cup in his first season at Fratton Park, as well as qualify for the Uefa Cup.

In total, he made 77 times before departing for AEK Athens after the Blues were relegated from the top flight in 2010.

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And when he did leave PO4, it must have been music to Scholes’ ears as he pinpointed Diop and ex-Arsenal skipper Patrick Vieira were the adversaries he hated facing.

Papa Bouba Diop. Picture: Steve Reid.Papa Bouba Diop. Picture: Steve Reid.
Papa Bouba Diop. Picture: Steve Reid. | Freelance

Speaking to Robbie Savage on BBC Radio 5 Live, Scholes said:‘When I played central midfield I like to go into games thinking “I just want to have all the time in the world here, just nobody around me, just find a little bit of space and pass the ball around”.

‘Then you play against people like you (Robbie Savage), an absolute nuisance, trying to close you down dead quick. I don't want that, I just want it nice and relaxed.

‘The way I played I didn't really have to beat people or be stronger, quicker than the other person.

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‘I suppose Patrick Vieira, you play against him he is so long, he is so big. You think you've got the ball and the next minute he nicks it over your head. He was a clever payer as well.

‘There's one more that people won't think of. We used to play against Portsmouth. Do you remember Papa Bouba Diop? Big, massive.

‘They used to call him The Wardrobe! You get involved physically with him and you're wasting your time.

‘I always found him awkward to play against. He wasn't a Vieira, of course he wasn't, but he still had talent.’