West Ham: Issa Diop will have big impact at London Stadium
The French youth international is one of Europe’s most exciting defenders and has a glowing reputation as the Hammers beat strong competition to his signature.
Many West Ham United fans may well be asking who their new signing Issa Diop is after their club broke their own transfer record to land the defender for £22 million.
The France Under-21 international is the second summer arrival at the London Stadium, following the arrival of English defender Ryan Fredericks from Fulham.
But who is he? And what will he offer?
The 21-year-old spoke of ‘ambition’ fuelling his move to the London club, where he has signed a five-year contract.
Diop already has 85 first-team appearances under his belt at Ligue 1 club Toulouse and has represented his nation at every youth level right up to Under-21 level.
“I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach,” Diop told West Ham official club media.
“I hope to help the team win lots of games. I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here.”
West Ham director of football Mario Husillos added: “Issa is a player with fantastic potential who has already shown great quality at such a young age.
“We believe he is now ready to make the next step in his career by moving to the Premier League.”
Diop has football heritage in his family to live up to as well – his grandfather Labysse Diop, a towering a defender, was the first Senegalese footballer in Ligue 1. The new Hammers player has a similar profile, standing at 6 foot 3.
Despite his relatively tender age, Diop’s leadership qualities have been evident throughout his career and last season he was appointed first-team captain at Toulouse.
The French club achieved their objective of fighting off relegation, defeating Ajaccio in an end-of-season playoff.
Diop is renowned for his ability to organise his backline and inspire others around him by taking the initiative and leading the way for his teammates. His qualities have also been recognised at international level and he was recently appointed captain for the Under-23 side.
The relegation playoff victory was one of a number of key matches where Diop has played a key role, having also helped France to the Under-19 European Championships title two years ago.
This signing must be seen as a coup for the East London club.
It was reported frequently last season that city rivals Arsenal and Tottenham both scouted the defender numerous times with genuine interest, even if no solid offer was forthcoming.
Reports in Spain stated Sevilla had lodged a €15 million (£13 million) bid for Diop and their interest was strong but they could not compete on a financial level with the Hammers.
The one concern surrounding Diop has been his disciplinary record: his first campaign saw him dismissed twice, while his last two seasons have seen him collect a total of 19 yellow cards.
However, this has not been enough to deter major European clubs from registering an interest with Barcelona linked to the defender at the start of the summer transfer window.
Best described as a raw diamond with massive potential, Diop should help transform an aging Hammers back-line and help them in their attempts to become a major force in the top flight.
What do you think? Will Issa Diop prove to be a hit at the London Stadium? Let us know by commenting below.