FLURRIES of foreign footballers being signed by English clubs are a staple of the summer.
Unlike George Weah’s cousin, many new players arriving in the Premier League have proven success in other countries, but that doesn’t always translate to the rough and tumble of the English game.
Take Eric Djemba-Djemba. An impressive debut season in Ligue Une earned the tough-tackling midfielder a dream move to Manchester United in the summer of 2003.
Viewed as a potential long-term successor to Roy Keane, it soon became clear that Eric’s biggest impact in a Red Devils shirt came in his debut game – a clattering challenge on Arsenal’s Sol Campbell branded ‘obscene’ by Arsene Wenger.
Fading from the first team over the next 18 months, the Cameroonian was sold to Aston Villa for £1.5m – a £5m loss for United. Competition from Gavin McCann and Steve Davies meant Djemba-Djemba played only once for the Villains before being farmed out on loan to Championship club Burnley.
Only the most devoted followers of Qatar SC, Odense BK and Hapoel Tel Aviv could add nuance to Eric’s 162 appearances and six goals following his release by Villa in summer 2007.
Djemba-Djemba never featured for a Kenna side, mainly because the bulk of his meagre Premier League appearances happened before the Kenna’s creation in 2005. Official Kenna records from the period are as patchy as the Bible, but it’s believed he did spend some time as a Titus Bramble player in 2006/07.
Be that as it may, his combative ‘Claude Makalele’ role in front of defence meant he was more likely to pick up bookings than assists and goals, a highly undesirable trait considering the Kenna’s scoring system.
A glut of new midfielders have flooded into England since Sporting Lesbian lifted the Kenna title in May. It remains to be seen which of those new recruits have the X factor and which have the Djemba-Djemba factor, but that won’t stand in the way of bold predictions based on national stereotyping and sweeping generalisations. When it comes to the auction on Saturday, on whom will managers gamble?
The list of Brazilians to flake in the Premier League is long and distinguished, but Paulinho’s formative years in Eastern Europe give the impression he can deal with a lot chillier and more hostile climes than a wet Tuesday night in Stoke. A likely first-team starter for Spurs and no stranger to the score sheet, although if his season goes too well a protracted transfer saga to Real Madrid next summer looms. Djemba-Djemba factor: 1/5
Fernandinho (Man City)
Another box-to-box Brazilian with experience of Eastern Europe’s icy depths. Manchester should be a stroll compared to any winter’s night in Donetsk. Maybe not guaranteed the starting place of his compatriot above, but lightening pace and a powerful shot. Djemba-Djemba factor: 2/5
José Cañas (Swansea)
In the last four years and 66 appearances, Cañas never scored for his former side Real Betis. Djemba-Djemba factor: 4/5
Aleksander Tonev (Villa)
The wiry Bulgarian international collected an Ekstraklasa runners up medal last season with Lech Poznań and offers width and pace. A former young Bulgarian footballer of the year, Tonev clocked up his first goals for the national side in March – scoring the first hat-trick of his career in a 6-0 thumping against Malta. How much will he feature? Djemba-Djemba factor: 3/5
Leroy Fer (Norwich)
Nicknamed ‘The Bouncer’ for his physical approach to the game, the Dutch international played in a range of positions throughout his early career but is now seen as a defensive midfielder in the mould of Patrick Viera. Not many goals or assists expected. Djemba-Djemba factor: 4/5
André Schürrle (Chelsea)
Certain to go for big money at auction, the German scores a goal every three games at club and country level. Unlikely to be the next Marko Marin. Djemba-Djemba factor: 1/5
The Sunderland midfield
Phil Bardsley may have been rebuked for that casino snap, but it’s his club paymasters who are spinning the wheel for the highest stakes. Paulo Di Canio’s wholesale replacement of players means the team that finished last season could be unrecognisable from the one lining up next week. El-Hadji Ba, Cabral, Diakite and Giaccherini all have no experience of the English game. Will the Italian’s gamble pay off? No one knows, but even his critics would say Di Canio always tends to be right. Djemba-Djemba factor: 4/5
Victor Wanyama (Southampton)
An African defensive midfielder who for the last two years has honed his skills in a league even more unfashionable than France’s. Are you Eric in disguise? Djemba-Djemba factor: 5/5