'You've done me' - What former Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard said to Danny Murphy after being told to mark Portsmouth sensation Lassana Diarra

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Lassana Diarra is widely regarded as one of Pompey’s best players of the modern era – and he’s clearly left a lasting impression on former Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard, too.

Indeed, to this day, the ex-Wigan and Hull ace wishes he had done his homework on the Blues’ midfield dynamo following a Fratton Park introduction in 2008.

Speaking on talkSPORT this week, Bullard recalled how he was told to mark Pompey’s midfield dynamo by Cottagers captain Danny Murphy. But at the time, little did he know he had been ‘stitched’ up by the former Liverpool midfielder, who didn’t fancy going head-to-head with the fabulous Frenchman.

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Murphy also, apparently, took great delight in telling Bullard that Diarra was poised for a big-money move to Real Madrid when the penny dropped just how good he was.

Laughing about it now, Bullard told talkSPORT co-presenter Jamie O’Hara: ‘I was away to Portsmouth one night and I never watched a lot of footie...

‘I was warming up and Danny Murphy went “you mark the (number) four”. So I’m warming up looking for the four and I look over there and (I thought) “four-and-a-half foot! Yeah, I’ll mark the four, no problem”.

‘The first 10 minutes he (Diarra) gets the ball from the right-back, he gives me a shoulder dip on the left and he’s gone away from me and I’ve went “Wow”. You know every now and then you come up against someone that’s a bit special!

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‘I went “alright, I’ll let that pass”. But 10 minutes later, the keeper’s kicked it in the air, 50 yards in the air, and he does a Cruyff turn on the boing and gets away and I’m trying to track back. We went in at half-time and I said “Who’s the four, Danny?” And he said “That’s Diarra, he’s off to (Real) Madrid next week!”

Lassana Diarra played 30 times for Pompey before being sold to Real Madrid for £20m in January 2009   Picture:  David Rogers/Getty ImagesLassana Diarra played 30 times for Pompey before being sold to Real Madrid for £20m in January 2009   Picture:  David Rogers/Getty Images
Lassana Diarra played 30 times for Pompey before being sold to Real Madrid for £20m in January 2009 Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images

‘I went “you absolute clown, you’ve done me”. Unbelievable.’

Bullard added: ‘I swapped at half-time (and said) “I’m not having the four”.

‘He (Murphy) has done his home work, he’s done me!’

Murphy was right in his Madrid prediction, with Diarra eventually signing for the European giants in January 2009 for £20m.

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Fulham's Jimmy Bullard is challenged by Lassana Diarra on the final day of the 2008 Premier League season.   Picture: Hamish Blair/Getty ImagesFulham's Jimmy Bullard is challenged by Lassana Diarra on the final day of the 2008 Premier League season.   Picture: Hamish Blair/Getty Images
Fulham's Jimmy Bullard is challenged by Lassana Diarra on the final day of the 2008 Premier League season. Picture: Hamish Blair/Getty Images

That landed the Blues a hefty profit, after they picked up the midfielder from Arsenal for £5.5m just 12 months earlier.

In his short spell at Pompey, Diarra featured 32 times for the club, scoring three times. He was one of the Blues’ star performers when they won the 2008 FA Cup final against Cardiff.

Diarra would go on to become a 34-times capped French international and win various titles at Real Madrid and Paris St Germain before announcing his retirement in 2019.

Busting to have his say, former Pompey and Spurs midfielder O’Hara told Bullard: ‘I played against him at Tottenham and I played against him when he was at Pompey.

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‘I said “I’ll have the four”, same thing and was told “Jim, he’s unbelievable”. He was unbelievable, he had everything. You look at him and think “I can deal with that”. You play against Gerrard and he’s quick, he’s strong, he’s tall, you know what he’s about. He’s a leader.

‘Diarra was a bit like (N'Golo) Kante. When you look at him you think “I can deal with that, he’s fine. He’s 5”2”, I reckon I can handle this”. Unbelievable. What a player he was.’