Welcome to ‘Random Premier League Chancers’, a weekly look at some of the strangest characters to have ever lined out in the English Premier League.
Typically transfers that didn’t work out and were quickly erased from the memories of most supporters, these men were the guys who’s name you heard a few times in Match Of The Day, then never heard from ever again.
This week we are taking a look at the man who showed up at Old Trafford with the intention of ultimately replacing an ageing Roy Keane in midfield, but instead would have been completely forgotten were it not for his unforgettable name. So good they named him twice, it's Eric Djemba-Djemba.
In 2003 Manchester United were a team in transition. The famous treble-winning side from 1999 was almost totally replaced, and the big names that were brought in to do the business were, well, not doing the business. Fabien Barthez was brought in to mitigate the post-Schemichel disaster in goal, Laurent Blanc and Rio Ferdinand were signed to shore up the back line, and Ruud Van Nistelrooy had replaced the Yorke/Cole combo up top, but for the midfield, the tandem of Juan Sebastian Verson and Eric Djemba-Djemba were supposed to be a dynamic midfield combo to take pressure off of Roy Keane. It didn't work out.
Eric Daniel Djemba-Djemba made his first venture into professional football with French Ligue 1 side FC Nantes in 2001. A tough tackling, box-to-box player, the young man from Cameroon was quickly making a name for himself with strong performances in the middle of the pitch. It was rumoured that a number of top European clubs were monitoring his progress at Nantes, but Sir Alex Ferguson was the one who decided to pull the trigger, and Manchester United signed him for £3.5m in the summer of 2003.
There isn't a whole lot to say about Eric Djemba-Djemba's Manchester United career, because he didn't really have one. In eighteen months at Old Trafford, Djemba-Djemba played just 20 times. He quickly endeared himself to the more "traditional" Manchester United fans for absolutely breaking up Sol Campbell on his debut in the Charity Shield, but that was all he could do, kick people. Most of his appearances came in cup compeitions, and most of them involved yellow cards, but the undoubted highlight of his Manchester United (actually, probably his entire) career came with an extra-time winner against Leeds in the League Cup.
Manchester United cut their losses on Eric Djemba-Djemba in January 2005 when they somehow managed to convince Aston Villa to pay £1.5m for him. Presumably signed because United signed him once, Villa soon realised how limited a player he was, and Djemba-Djemba struggled to disrupt the first-choice midfield partnership of Gavin McCann and Steven Davis.
By the time Djemba-Djemba was loaned to Championship side Burnley in 2007, he had played just 11 times for Villa. At last the Cameroon international had found regular first team football in England, as he made 15 appearances for Burnley by the end of the season, but when he returned to Villa he was told he could find a new club. When a new club didn't emerge for Djemba-Djemba, his contract was terminated, and his time in English football was over.
In search of regular first-team football (and a decent wage), Eric Djemba-Djemba made the move to Qatar and the fantastically named Qatar Sports Club. Would this be the stability Eric had been searching for since he left France? No, it would not. That would come one year later when Djemba-Djemba joined Odense in Denmark.
Denmark was a much happier hunting ground for Eric Djemba-Djemba as after making his debut for the club against Aston Villa in the Intertoto Cup, he went on to make over 100 appearances for Odense and in 2009 was nominated for the SAS Liga player of the year award. Rumours of a move back to England came and went, and after four good years and the restoration of his career, Djemba-Djemba was on the move again.
Since 2012, Eric Djemba-Djemba has had brief spells at Hapoel Tel Aviv:
And St.Mirren (what a photo this is):
And most recently he has signed for Indian Super League team Chennaiyin FC, where he plays alongside former Manchester City midfielder Elano, Bernand Mendy, and player-manager Marco Matterazi.
He was supposed to replace Roy Keane at the heart of the Manchester United midfield, but instead he had to settle for having a special place in the hearts of football fans for being the bloke with an amazing name who was pretty crap in English football. Still, he forged a respectable career for himself which was no doubt enjoyable, so fair play to him for that, but Eric Djemba-Djemba will always be known as a random premier league chancer.