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Where Are They Now? Eric Djemba-Djemba – the Cameroonian brought in to replace Roy Keane

Manchester United signed Eric Djemba-Djemba from French side Nantes in 2003, and it was hoped the 22-year-old Cameroonian was the man to fill the boots of Roy Keane as a tough tackling midfielder. He made his debut in the same game as a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, but their United careers took very different paths. Djemba-Djemba made 35 United appearances in total, scoring two goals in the process. His United career was short, lasting under two years.

However, in that time he managed to get into some serious financial difficulties. He was earning £75,000 a month whilst at United, and he certainly spent it. His agent alleges he owned 10 four-by-four cars and had thirty different bank accounts, meaning his wages were constantly being devoted to loan repayments. Though he had such a poor concept of money, it may still come as a surprise that he was declared bankrupt only a short time after leaving United and whilst still on Aston Villa’s books in 2007.

This spell at Villa spanned two years, but he was rarely in David O’Leary’s sides, which resulted in a loan spell to Burnley in the January 2007 window. He managed to get some first team football under then manager, Steve Cotterill, making 15 appearances in the league. Initially, he struggled to kick on from there, playing the 2007/08 season in Qatar for Qatar SC. However, at the end of that season, he returned to Europe, playing for Danish side Odense. He spent four years there and made over 100 appearances.

This was easily the most fruitful spell of his career, and he was even recognised with a special award from Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of his first season there, in which he became a firm fans’ favourite. He was able to regularly play in the Europa League as well as the Danish League, in which Odense regularly competed for the title. After a successful stint in Denmark, Djemba-Djemba has struggled to find a similar consistency elsewhere.

This has resulted in him playing for various clubs spanning different continents, including spells in Israel, Indonesia and India. He also returned much closer to United, securing a short-term deal with St Mirren in 2014. He struggled to make an impact there though, which resulted in the moves to Indian and Indonesian football. Since 2016 he has played his football in the fifth tier of Swiss football for FC Vallorbe-Ballaigues, which is some drop from the heights of United and winning the FA Cup in the 2003-04 season.

He can claim to have had international success though, gaining 34 caps for his country, which included a winners’ gong in the African cup of Nations. Despite his change in fortunes at a domestic level, Djemba-Djemba maintains he has no regrets:

“I have no regrets about anything in my career. You realise it is football and God decides everything. I was happy to be playing for Manchester, happy to be winning titles, happy the way they treat me. And I have no regrets about going to Aston Villa, it was the choice of God, that’s it.

“When you are young you can do some mistakes: for me, I never regret my mistakes. I could have stayed longer if I wanted to. But it’s not well to stay and to play one or two games in five years.”

He may not have been Sir Alex Ferguson’s most successful signing, far from it, but at least the Cameroonian appears to not dwell on it too much.

Written by Rob Potter

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