El Centrocampista


Like many thousands of African youngsters, Pape Maly Diamanka grew up dreaming of playing in one of the top European leagues, and that dream became closer to a reality in February 2010, when after catching the eye of one of Rayo Vallecano’s African scouts, he signed a two year contract with the Madrid based side.

The 19-year-old Diamanka soon began to make his mark with Vallecano’s B team, displaying a tenacity and agility as a holding midfielder which caught the eye of a number of Primera Liga clubs. When he signed a new two year contract last June, his release clause was set at 6 million euros, a significant sum for a player who at that stage had only ever played in the Spanish Third Division.

Two weeks later his potential was recognised by his country of birth, when he was called up to the full Senegalese squad for their friendlies against Peru and Argentina.

With the new season approaching, Diamanka began to train with the first team, and indeed appeared in a number of pre season friendlies. Given that he had already played for Jose Ramon Sandoval in Vallecano’s B team before Sandoval’s promotion to first team coach, his chances of realising his dream seemed better than ever.

Then came the bombshell – despite having already lived and played in Spain for more than 18 months, authorities decided that there were discrepancies with the paperwork submitted by his previous club in Senegal, and refused to accept his player registration for the new La Liga campaign.

The club tried frantically to resolve the issue, but the deadline passed shortly before they managed to do so. This left Diamanka in the bizarre position of continuing to train with the first team, but not being allowed to play for either of Rayo’s two sides. For reasons best known to the Spanish authorities, he has had to wait until the transfer window has reopened this week to be registered.

The month that Diamanka spent competing with the Senegalese under 23 squad in the Africa Cup tournament in Morocco clearly convinced Sandoval that he was match fit enough to be included in the first team squad for today’s encounter against Sevilla, although he began the game on the bench.
Despite the wretched recent form of both sides (between them they had lost their last seven league and cup encounters), the compact Estadio de Vallecas was nearly full, and the atmosphere was as electric as ever.

The turnout was aided no doubt by the second Sevilla debut of Jose Antonio Reyes after his return to his hometown club, but also by some cut price tickets available to both home and away supporters. Vallecano ‘socios’ (season ticket holders) were allowed to take along two guests for half the normal price, whilst even more interestingly, the club reduced the price of tickets for away fans, a gesture which will be reciprocated when the Madrid based club’s supporters visit Anadalucia for the return fixture in May.

In a country where sizeable away support is very much the exception rather than the norm, this incentive may well have had an impact on what was a surprisingly large number of Sevilla supporters who had made the long journey north to cheer on their heroes.
Unfortunately both sets of supporters were to witness a largely tepid first half, with an unlikely development seconds before it ended. Apart from Federico Fazio’s excellent finish for the visitors which was wrongly ruled out for offside, neither side looked likely to break the deadlock.

Sevilla seemed unaffected by the absence of key defender Martin Caceres (who seems destined to return to Juventus if the clubs can agree a fee) – that is, until seconds before the break. Home midfielder Trashorras lifted a hopeful free kick into the box, Fazio and ‘keeper Javi Varas got in each other’s way, and Michu pounced to head home his seventh goal of the season.

The second half was a huge improvement. Five minutes into the second half Raul Tamudo latched onto a perfect pass from Piti and smashed the ball past Varas from the edge of the area to double the home side’s lead. Moments later Diamanka entered the fray, and whilst he unsurprisingly looked a little off the pace, he did make a number of important interventions as the home side fought to protect a lead which was halved by visiting defender Escude just past the hour mark.

When Negredo’s spectacular late volley crashed against the crossbar, the points were in the bag, although there was still time for the young Senegalese midfielder to receive his first La Liga yellow card after a reckless lunge. Only time will tell whether he can make the same significant impact on the league as the stud marks left on Perrotti’s ankle, after a challenge which may well earn him a red in future weeks if he repeats it.

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