Djibril Cissé thinks of himself as lucky. For a man who has broken both his legs in his professional career, that is saying something. But it is the fact that Cissé has recovered, can play again, and can play in the Premier League again, that has left him feeling fortunate about his lot. Today the 27-year-old will make his home debut for Sunderland, where his warm rehabilitation will gather pace.
Scoring late headed winners for Roy Keane's team, as Cissé did at White Hart Lane last weekend, is a compelling reason why Wearside has taken to the Frenchman so swiftly, but there is also the glamour and status Cissé brings to the club. It is a while since Sunderland signed Champions' League winners. It can slip the memory that Cissé was there in Istanbul with Liverpool; he took a successful penalty in that dramatic shoot-out.
But Cissé came off the bench to do so. Having cost £14 million when he arrived from Auxerre in 2004, Cissé's time at Anfield was underwhelming, and when he departed for Marseille two years ago it was for £6m. But that shocking broken leg at Ewood Park so soon after moving to England, when Cissé's tibia and fibula snapped, cannot be glossed over.
"I know I can play better than I did at Liverpool," Cissé said this week. "I didn't fulfil my potential there because of injuries. When I was fit, I also played quite a lot of games out of position. I got injured just two months after I joined Liverpool and that disrupted everything.
"It was very hard to come back, but I did get back and I played in the Champions' League final when we won the competition in 2005. I want to show that I can do more and that I am a better player now than I was when I was at Liverpool.
"I had a terrible injury when I was there and when you suffer something like that, it makes you appreciate football more because you know that your career might be on the line. I consider myself lucky because I have broken both legs in my career, but I am still playing football at a really good level, at a really good club."
Describing Sunderland as "really good" has not been possible for some time. But with strong financial backing from the Drumaville consortium, the chairman, Niall Quinn, and Keane are attempting to lift the club to another level. Being able to attract, and pay, men like Cissé shows fresh ambition. The loan transfer may be for one year initially, but that Cissé knew of interest from today's opponents, Manchester City, and still headed for Wearside says that Sunderland are convincing people beyond themselves.
"I think we can have a good season and cause trouble for the teams in the top six," Cissé said. "Nobody expects us to win anything so we don't have that kind of pressure, but we know we have a good team here and we will surprise a few people. I feel we can finish in the top 10 and that would be a good season for the club."
The powerful header against Spurs has aided Cissé's arrival but there is also another new French-speaking presence at Sunderland. The fact that Pascal Chimbonda has already had one run-in with Keane – Chimbonda was dropped for the Spurs game having been five minutes late for a team meeting – has not alarmed Cissé. Quite the opposite, in fact.
"I knew a few of the players who were here already when I signed. I played with Steed [Malbranque] in the youth team in France, I knew Pascal, Dioufy [El-Hadji Diouf] and I played alongside Teemu [Tainio] with Auxerre. They have helped me settle in.
"I'm enjoying working under Roy Keane. He is very experienced and won cups and titles all through his career. He is very straight with the players, he has certain standards and he expects players to stick to them. That is a good thing."
According to reports in France at the time of the transfer, Sunderland paid around £2m to facilitate the loan. But if Cissé, Keane and Sunderland click, the striker is already thinking beyond that period.
"I would like to come back to play in England full time, but it is up to me this season to show that I deserve to be here and earn a permanent move to Sunderland. I think there is a deal agreed between the clubs. The fans have been brilliant towards me. I hope I can bring them joy. And goals."Reuse content