It’s been a story that’s done the rounds for years, and the Ali Dia fiasco at Southampton will go down in football folklore.
Like all good tales, there appears to have been a great deal of embellishment over the years, but Graeme Souness has finally set the record straight.
The former Liverpool legend turned Sky Sports pundit, was Southampton manager at the time, and he laid the blame for Dia’s appearance squarely at the door of Saints’ star player, Matthew Le Tissier.
“It’s a great and funny story – but not quite what you hear,” Souness said on Sky Sports and cited by the Daily Star. “Someone at the club got a call saying George Weah’s cousin was in England and wanted a trial.
“Matt will know, at the time, we had such a small squad that we were having trails all the time. This guy turns up. Anyone that’s been involved in football would know in the first five minutes of a small game if the boy can play or not. In the first five minutes, on the Monday morning, we said ‘he was hopeless’.
“But we didn’t have enough players for a side, so we kept him for a week. More and more people were getting injured. Matt was out only fit striker but it was all his fault because he only lasted 20 minutes.
“I had right backs, centre-backs, left backs and then this guy on the bench. We had him on as the worst thing that could happen was he’d run around and be a pest. He was everywhere the ball had just been.
“No-one was kidded, no-one was conned. We made the decision within five minutes that he was not very good but it’s a good story.”
Ali Dia disappeared from the game as quickly as he’d entered it. Just eight appearances at non-league club Gateshead immediately followed his Southampton debacle per FourFourTwo, where he at least scored two goals of a three-goal career.
Not unsurprisingly, the player is at number one in the outlet’s list of all-time worst Premier League players, an accolade he will surely hold onto and which will never be beaten.