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Playing catch-up with the Chelsea scouting team: Who is Papy Djilobodji?

Mind you, this is not a big deal, but it's still funny (if L'Equipe's reporting is to be believed):

As Jose Mourinho, Chelsea fans, and the rest of the footballing world play catch-up with the Chelsea scouting team, let's see what we can learn about 26-year-old Papy Djilobodji.

Born in Senegal, "Djilo" (presuming that's a valid nickname based on his Instagram account) has spent most of his career with FC Nantes, first in Ligue 2 and then, over the last couple seasons, in Ligue 1.  He's amassed almost 200 appearances since signing with the club as a 21-year-old in 2009.  He's quite obviously tall and strong, fairly quick with a powerful shot.  He's popular, as evidenced by the soundtrack that was blasting throughout WAGNH Towers on Transfer Deadline Day.  (That song is also helpful if you're at all confused about how to pronounce his name.)

But what about the stuff that really matters?  There's a distinct lack of English language coverage about the center back, which is hardly surprising given that he didn't play for one of the big boys of French football.  To wit, we have a grand total of 5 pictures in our Getty Images database to use; I think the last time we had a similar dilemma was with Eden Hazard.  Though fortunately, the Djilobodji transfer story was over almost before it even began, unlike Hazard's multi-month trolling of Europe's emotions.  But I digress.

Here are a few telling passages I've gathered from various corners of the Internet about the center-back who once fancied himself as a defensive midfielder.  (That sound you just heard was Mourinho's heartbeat quickening for a minute.)  Some old, some new, all more reliable probably than YouTube highlights. of the best Ligue 1 central defenders in 2014 ... [able to] quickly weigh-up the risk and reward each time he either makes an interception or chooses to merely track his man...

In 2014, Djilobodji has proved that he has become a far less reckless defender, most likely due to the increased experience that he has accumulated over the course of Nantes' ascension to Ligue 1 fame. [...] While Nantes are a seemingly ever-improving outfit, their midfield is oftentimes overrun and thus Djilobodji has to pick up the odd tactical yellow card here and there, with five cautions already in the first half of the 2014/15 campaign...

-source: GFFN Top 100 of 2014 (#18)

Having to deal with an overrun midfield?  He'll fit right in!

...wonderful consistency ... no stranger to the tackle ... particularly strong in the air ...  physically imposing and one of the improvements that he has made in the last eighteen months is using this physicality more wisely ... the Djilobodji of 2013 is a much changed defender.

-source: GFFN Top 100 of 2013 (#92)

"I have seldom seen a defender with this good a left foot and right foot."

-Yaya Touré, December 2013; source: Sky

...he has developed a sound reputation for himself in France ... at such a low fee, [Chelsea] could possibly have grabbed themselves a deadline day bargain.

... uncompromising and forceful centre-back, who rarely comes out second best in aerial duels ... dominates the box with his physical stature.

...deceptively quick for his size, and though he is not blessed with blistering natural pace, he has a natural sense of positional awareness which allows him to be in the right place at the right time to intercept and to clear the danger, a feat which he has become especially renowned for.

...need to improve [on] lack of composure when in possession and his sometimes sloppy use of the ball from feet. His decision-making is by and large sensible; however at times he lacks the technical ability to pick out passes, and his poor distribution from feet has held him back from being a top defender at one of the bigger Ligue 1 clubs.

-source: French Football Weekly

Given such qualities, it is perhaps a bit surprising that Nantes let him go for so cheap.  Apparently, according to the Daily Mail, Djilo was essentially forcing a sale by refusing to sign a new contract (his deal was set to expire next summer) and actively looking for a move.  Things came to a head with the club leadership in June, with the player failing to show up to a training session and in response, getting demoted to the development squad.  While Roberto Martinez was unavailable for comment on this issue, it's probably not the nicest or fairest way to go about things.  Though I doubt the Mail's giving us the full story.  They do call him an "all-action defender" and note that he can launch attacks from the back.

Few expect Djilobodji to make a massive impact in however long his Chelsea career may last.  In that sense, this bargain-basement deal for a massive, if a bit wild and inconsistent fourth-option at center back has very little downside.  If the players who have done so well for us over the last few years recover their form, Djilo may hardly see the pitch.  But should Terry & Co continue to struggle, maybe we will be proven to have uncovered a hidden gem.  Mourinho may not know who Papy Djilobodji is now, and neither may we, but all of us might just need to thank the Chelsea scouts in the near the future.

We shall just have to wait and see...

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