El Hadji Diouf insists that he has no problem with former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard, but could not resist what appeared to be another pop at the former England midfielder.
Diouf spent three seasons contracted to Liverpool from 2002 until 2005, spending one on loan at Bolton, frequently causing controversy with his on-field antics and even falling out with his team-mates. They continue to spat in the media, with the former attacker apparently taking another dig at Reds legend Gerrard when speaking to the BBC.
“I have no problem with him,” he said. “Gerrard is a strong character and I am a strong character. ‘Stevie G’ was a very good player, people like him in Liverpool but he never did anything for his country. I am Mr El Hadji Diouf, Mr Senegal but he is Mr Liverpool and Senegal is bigger than Liverpool and he has to know that.”
During his time in the Premier League, when he also played for Sunderland and Blackburn, Diouf earned something of a bad-boy reputation – an image he insists is ill deserved.
“I am a lion, I am a bad loser and it’s not wrong to be a bad loser,” he argued. “I have got character and I want people to respect me.
“I am an easy target. It’s easy to talk about El Hadji Diouf and I let them talk but I know in my heart I am a good guy. My family know, my population knows, my continent knows I am a good guy and that’s the best thing. The rest is not my problem.”
In particular, he earned a reputation for spitting at opponents – and on one notorious occasion during a UEFA Cup clash, a Celtic fan.
“Maybe they used to tell me something I didn’t want to hear. I did that, I paid and now it’s finished,” he said.
Nevertheless, he is proud of what he achieved during his playing days and cited Senegal’s victory over France in the 2002 World Cup as his highlight.
“We put Senegal on the world map,” he said. “Before the World Cup nobody knew Senegal, but after the World Cup everybody wanted to know where Senegal was. What Maradona did for his country [Argentina] is what I did for Senegal. I was one of the biggest men at the 2002 World Cup.
“We were colonised by France, most of the businesses are run by French people here and to beat them was a big thing for us. Before the game, they used to say: ‘The reserve team is going to play against the first team’ – because most of the players used to play in the French league. I used to be in Lens, Salif Diao [Sedan], Khalilou Fadiga [Auxerre], most of the players played in the French league but we used to say: ‘Be careful before you kill the lion.’”