Djibril Cisse – Sunderland’s Number Nine

Djibril Cisse. A man of flashy underwear, designer facial hair, he once was Sunderland’s number nine and, rather appropriately this week, loved scoring against the mags. The Lord of the Manor of Frodsham announced his retirement this week, at the age of 34. Persisting injuries had hindered his efforts to find a new club after being released by Bastia in the summer and a month long spell at JS Saint-Pierroise didn’t work out so Djibril has hung up his boots.

 

Having made his name at Auxerre, Cisse earned himself a move to Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool in the summer of 2004. Nineteen games into the season though, the Frenchman suffered a broken leg in an away game at Blackburn Rovers. Cisse did make a speedy recovery though and returned to action in April of that season and even converted one of Liverpool’s penalties in their famous Champions League final victory over AC Milan. Despite a good season the following year, scoring 19 goals (including one in the FA Cup final win against West Ham), Djibril returned to his native France after agreeing a loan deal to Marseille. The deal was halted until January though after he suffered another leg break, this time on international duty with France in a warm up game for the 2006 World Cup.

 

Meanwhile, whilst Cisse was recovering from his second devastating leg break, Sunderland were just embarking on the Roy Keane revolution. While the ex-Manchester United captain was leading his side to promotion back to the Premier League, Cisse had regained fitness and was starting to bang in the goals. This prompted Marseille president Pape Diouf to broker a deal to sign Djibril permanently in July 2007. At this point Roy Keane was preparing for life as a Premier League manager by brining in the likes of Michael Chopra from Cardiff, Greg Halford from Reading and Roy O’Donovan from Cork City, quite a contrast from the glamours career of Cisse. Sunderland valiantly avoided relegation in 2007/08 and in Marseille, Cisse enjoyed a fine season scoring 16 goals in 35 league games.

 

It isn’t at this point where you’d expect Sunderland and Cisse to meet but that’s exactly what happened. Cisse was wanted by many Premier League clubs in the summer of 2008 and the striker was keen to return to England. Sunderland had made some impressive signings going into the 08/09 season, the Tottenham trio of Steed Malbranque, Pascal Chimbonda and Teemu Tainio being real statement signings for Roy Keane. On the opening day of the season against Liverpool, Sunderland were without a real quality striker after Kenwyne Jones had been injured playing for Trinidad and Tobago in the summer. Daryl Murphy started up front and whilst he had made a good contribution in getting Sunderland back to the Premier League, he wasn’t what they needed to push on.

 

A season long loan deal was announced on 21st August to take Cisse to Sunderland. Even after the three players signed from Spurs, this was a huge signing for the lads, a glamours signing even. In came Cisse with his chest puffed out, beard dyed white, covered in tattoos and despite his leg breaks, still possessed lightening pace. Sunderland had never had a player like this and the fans took to his personality instantly.

 

Djibril started on the bench for his first game, away to Tottenham. With the game poised at 1-1, Roy Keane decided it was time to throw his new man on with 25 minutes to go. With 83 minutes gone, Dean Whitehead played the ball out wide to Daryl Murphy who pinged a ball right onto Cisse’s head to make it 2-1. Cue raptures in the away end. If his personality hadn’t already won you over, he certainly had now.

 

Cisse started openly talking to the press about how he’d love to secure a permanent deal at Sunderland and Roy Keane was also just publicly smitten saying that he’d “happily break the transfer record” for Djibril. In Sunderland’s first home win over Newcastle in 28 years, Cisse further endeared himself to Mackem hearts by scoring the teams first goal in a 2-1 win. During an away game at Blackburn in November, Cisse suffered a bollocking from Keane at half time with Sunderland 1-0 down. Sunderland turned it around and won 2-1 though and Djibril responded to the managers hair drier treatment by netting the winner and, when celebrating his goal, ran to the dug out to shake Keane’s hand even getting a smile out of gaffer!

 

The Blackburn game turned out to be Roy Keane’s final win as Sunderland manager but this didn’t halt Cisse’s good form. He scored in comprehensive wins over West Bromwich Albion and Hull City, under the new regime of promoted coach Ricky Sbragia, and reiterated how he’d like to sign for the club on a permanent basis. Cisse once again showed up as a thorn in Newcastle United’s side by giving Sunderland the lead at St James Park in a 1-1 draw and scored the only goal in a crucial win against Hull City towards the end of the season. The win against Hull turned out to be his last for Sunderland and the last win of the season for the lads.

 

Sunderland’s form dropped dramatically in the second half of the season and with Ricky Sbragia becoming more defensive minded as the season went on, Cisse found himself in and out the side. Premier League survival was only confirmed on the last day of the season and not long after, the club announced that Djibril Cisse was to pack his bags as they were not looking to sign him on a permanent basis.

 

After stints at Panathinaikos and Lazio, Cisse returned to England with QPR. He marked his return to the Stadium of Light, where he was met with warm applause by the home fans, by getting sent off for a late challenge on Fraizer Campbell. A fitting tribute to the way his time on Wearside ended so bitterly.

 

Djibril Cisse may have only been here for one season but after Sunderland had suffered humiliating relegations and were looking to establish themselves as a Premier League club again, Cisse was one of the players who helped breathe life back into the club. So cheers Djib, enjoy your retirement back on the manor.

 
RORY FALLOW