It was 13 months ago when Mohamed Diame released a public statement.
In mid-March 2017 there was some hilarity as the Newcastle midfielder announced (see below) he was retiring from international football to concentrate on doing his best for Newcastle United.
After a very mediocre season in the Championship, it was difficult to see how he would be missed by his country, with also big doubts on him even getting a game for Newcastle as they headed into the Premier League.
Nevertheless, at the time, Diame’s decision was met with a lot of disappointment back in Senegal.
Former Birmingham and Portsmouth player, Aliou Cisse, has guided Senegal to the World Cup finals in Russia and on hearing the player’s announcement he stated ‘his country needs him’. However, he said he had been forced to ‘respect’ the midfielder’s decision to retire (see below).
When the Premier League season kicked off, it was 11 weeks before Mohamed Diame got his first start, a poor display in a 1-0 defeat at Burnley (30 October), then at the end of November came his next start in a 3-0 defeat by Watford. Next two games got no better, Diame starting in an away loss at Chelsea and home one to Everton.
He looked a player out of his depth, then came West Ham away and Newcastle in the relegation zone.
Injuries and suspension saw Rafa forced to play Henri Saivet and Mohamed Diame in the centre of midfield, fans feared the worst.
However, despite going a goal down, Newcastle came back to win 3-2, Diame scoring and playing well.
Since then he hasn’t looked back, his performances improving at an astonishing rate, especially once paired with Jonjo Shelvey and Rafa bringing in Kenedy on loan and going with Perez & Gayle up front.
Man of the match once again on Sunday as Newcastle overwhelmed Arsenal, Mohamed Diame is now looking indispensable to Newcastle.
The midfielder started for Senegal in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying group win over the Cape Verde Islands in October 2016, what proved to be his last competitive game for his country.
Senegal easily qualified for Russia with 14 points from a possible 18 and the World Cup actually starts on the day (14 June 2018) Mohamed Diame turns 31.
Senegal obviously have some very good players, such as Sadio Mane, but can they afford to not at least try to get Mohamed Diame to change his mind, his Premier League form would make him an asset to any team.
As for the player himself, this is surely the last World Cup possible for him, so would he say no if the call came.
Normally I’m not all that bothered about Newcastle players getting international call-ups but on this occasion I think it would make a great conclusion to a season for a payer who has shown great character to reinvent himself at Newcastle United.
Mohamed Diame – 15 March 2017:
“I know Newcastle is a massive club and people have big expectations.
“I know that it is important when you are in a club like this, you have to perform at 100 per cent – even 200 per cent.
“It was important for me to take this decision (to retire from international football) for the rest of my career.
“It has been a big honour for me, I’m proud to have been an international player for Senegal and to have made my family proud too.
“For my father and all my family to have seen me wearing the shirt is something that they will never forget and I’m very proud.
“It’s been a big decision and a tough one as well, because I really wanted to keep playing for my country – but I need to be honest, and give the opportunity to other players who feel strong and are in better form than me.
“As everyone knows, in Africa teams are always laughing and enjoying themselves when they are together.
“I have enjoyed a lot of great moments with Senegal, and I had the chance to play at the Olympic Games here in the UK with my country.
“It has been a big honour and a massive thing for me – I will never forget this.
“I would like to thank my family, because they have always been behind me and have given me support.
“I have spoken already with the manager, and I’d like to thank all the managers I have had, and not forgetting the Senegalese Football Federation as well.
“The fans have been amazing with me. They have supported me all the way through, so I would like to thank all of the Senegal supporters too.
“It’s not an easy decision, but I hope with all the rest that I will get from now I will be fresh to give my best for Newcastle.”
26 March 2017 – Aliou Cisse:
“I’m completely surprised because everybody knows I have a good relationship with Mohamed Diame.
“Clearly it’s a personal decision but one I disagree with because he’s still young, a good player and his country needs him.
“He could still give so much as he had a lot of years left in him.
“But he’s taken his decision and I have to respect that.”