QPR fans have a new boo-boy. Last season it was Kieron Dyer, for two games this season it was Rob Green and judging by the reaction to him in Tuesday night’s 0-0 draw with Sunderland, it is now Djibril Cissé.
Last week, after QPR’s loss to Southampton, the result that ultimately cost Mark Hughes his job, Cissé responded to a fan on Twitter who said he couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. “Come and have a chat big man. When u feel like talking to me face to face just come,” the Frenchman wrote, posting QPR’s training-ground address. A Twitter Q&A arranged by the club a few days later turned into a farce when none of the questions were deemed appropriate for the striker, who has only scored one league goal this season.
Without Cissé, it’s fair to say, QPR would not be bottom of the Premier League with no wins in 14 games—because they would not be in the Premier League at all. Yes, Cissé was sent off twice in his eight appearances after joining Rangers from Lazio last January; but he also scored six goals, including, on his debut, the first in a 2-2 draw against Aston Villa; the equaliser in QPR’s come-from-behind 3-2 win over Liverpool; and the last-minute winner on the penultimate day of the season against Stoke. It was the goal that essentially kept QPR up.
When new coach Harry Redknapp said that he did not want players standing around with their hands on their hips when the ball doesn’t go their way, everyone assumed he was talking about Adel Taarabt. He might just as easily been referring to Cissé. At Liverpool, it frustrated fans that he did not chase lost causes, but then, he was dealing with his own frustrations then, too, playing out wide under Rafa Benitez when he saw himself as a throwback centre-forward.
It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Cissé: he loves life in England but every time he moves to a Premier League club, the manager who signed him quickly leaves (or maybe that’s not such a coincidence after all).
The same thing happened at Liverpool, when Gerard Houllier signed him from Auxerre for £14m in summer 2004. Houllier had spent years negotiating to buy Cissé from then-Auxerre coach, his friend Guy Roux. He felt the Frenchman’s pace, allied to the passes of Steven Gerrard from midfield, would be perfect for the Premier League. But before he could see the duo in action, Houllier was sacked and replaced by Benitez. Cissé admitted even back then that he was desperate for Houllier to stay at Anfield. “If I arrived at Liverpool and Houllier was not the manager, it would be a serious blow,” he said before he moved to Anfield. “He’s the one I spoke to, the one I negotiated with. If he wasn’t there, the challenge would be even tougher.”
Cissé’s task was made harder when Benitez chose to play him on the right-wing. In his first season, after three goals in 11 games, he broke his leg at Blackburn Rovers and was out for six months. He returned in time for the 2005 Champions League final against Milan, where he scored a penalty in the dramatic, and successful, penalty shoot-out. The following season, he was in and out of the side but scored nine goals; and showed his love of the big occasion with another strike in Liverpool’s FA Cup final win over West Ham (another game that ended 3-3 and won on penalties). One year later, on the eve of the 2006 World Cup, he broke his other leg in a friendly against China.
“I don’t know if you could say my time at Liverpool was a failure; I’ve got reasonable statistics considering the amount of time I actually played,” he said. “I wanted to stay there for a long time, but it didn’t click between Benitez and me and I had to leave to play. We had a few disagreements, but our relationship has always remained polite. He told me he wasn’t his type of player, and that’s all. He has always been very frank. I have no regret, no anger toward him: he’s proved he’s a great coach.”
Cissé moved to Marseille, but was loaned to Sunderland, where Roy Keane was in charge, in summer 2008. Once again, he started well and once again, the coach was dismissed soon after. “Roy Keane was the one who brought me over and when he went, that was really tough for me,” said Cissé. “I’d already been through all that before at Liverpool with Gerard Houllier. Obviously it was a shame he left and I was disappointed.”
Sunderland refused to turn the loan into a permanent deal at the end of the season so Marseille sold Cissé to Panathinaikos, where he scored 52 goals in 89 appearances in all competitions.
QPR signed him after only six months at Lazio, where he had also started well, with four goals in his first three matches, before the October 2011 derby against Roma changed everything: with a chance to score the winner late on, Cissé hit the post; fellow new signing Miroslav Klose went on to score the winner, was hailed as the new Lazio hero, and Cissé lost his confidence.
Again, he was moved out to play on the wing, where he created eight goals for his team-mates, but he was not happy. “It hurt me not to score,” Cissé admitted. “I was on the bench for a while and that has never happened to me, and I didn’t like it at all. Football is my life and I need to be on the pitch.”
For someone as flamboyant as Cissé, it’s strange to see him as a confidence player but that’s what he seems to be. His haircut, of course, draws attention, and he is the star of French station Trance Sports’ fly-on-the-wall series Cissé vs Djibril, which follows him and his mate Kyu as they set up a fashion label, Monsieur Lenoir, and his DJ crew, Black Snow, putting on gigs. “I have a life outside football and I want to show a side of me that people don’t know or don’t have chance to see,” he said of the show. Perhaps surprisingly, he comes out rather well.
He is also the only France player to come out of Raymond Domenech’s recently-released autobiography, Tout Seul (All Alone), with any credit from the fiasco of the 2010 World Cup. Domenech writes that Cissé was in tears when his team-mates chose to strike in protest at Nicolas Anelka’s exclusion from the squad. Cissé was gutted that his QPR form did not help him make Laurent Blanc’s Euro 2012 squad. “I ended up suspended for seven games, and who knows, if I had scored three or four in those seven games, then perhaps it would have swung the balance for me,” he said. “I’ll have to be more careful next time.”
The pattern of Cissé’s English career, with the coach who signs him leaving, has repeated itself three times now. At least in the case of Hughes, were it not for Cissé, he would probably have been sacked in the summer. And while Redknapp is expected to try and bring in a new striker in January, for the next six games—which includes six-pointers against Villa and Wigan—it will be his job to rediscover Cissé’s mojo.