Diarra has '12 finals' to earn permanent Fulham deal


Mahamadou Diarra has said that he is excited by Fulham's ambition and is looking forward to proving his worth in west London. The 30-year-old former Real Madrid midfielder joined the club earlier this week on a deal until the end of the season, with an option of extending by a year.

Diarra, who once commanded a reported transfer fee of £22m, has been without a club since leaving Monaco last summer and the Malian is now hoping to resurrect his career in the Premier League.

"It has been a great pleasure to be here with the team for about a week now," he said. "I loved my first week of training here. It went really well and everyone was smiling and welcomed me with open arms. I really felt welcomed at my new club. There is a feeling that people are happy for me to be here and I am certainly happy to have signed for Fulham. Fulham is open to players who like to play football, who give their best and who have a winning mentality.

"The club is ambitious and that was made clear to me by the hierarchy here. By speaking to the manager [Martin Jol] it is also clear that he wants the team to progress and move in the right direction and this made me want to sign straight away."

Diarra has an impressive CV, having won league titles in Spain and France. The Mali international began his senior career with OFI Crete, before moving to the Netherlands to play for Vitesse Arnhem and to France to play for Lyons.

Diarra won four successive Ligue 1 titles before moving to Real Madrid for a reported £22m. He spent four and a half years at the Bernabeu, winning two La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey and one Super Cup. Things did not go quite as well at Monaco, as he failed to stop the club from slipping out of Ligue 1.

"I consider the 12 remaining matches as 12 finals for me," he said. "It's up to me now to prove that I can do well and satisfy the team with good performances on the pitch. I have seen the team play and I am aware of how the players play and I find myself amongst a good and talented group. For me, this is going to be a big challenge and an enormous adventure."

Fulham's opponents on Sunday are Wolves, whose caretaker manager, Terry Connor, has defended his decision to leave the captain, Roger Johnson, out of the starting line-up for the 2-2 draw with Newcastle last weekend, Connor's first game since temporarily replacing the sacked Mick McCarthy.

The move was Connor's response to the 5-1 derby defeat by West Bromwich Albion which cost McCarthy his job, and the new man has praised the defender's response. "I didn't want to do it but I thought it was the right decision," Connor said. "I'm not blaming Roger for us losing to West Brom but most people would agree you couldn't keep the same team and subs when you've lost 5-1. But Roger took it very well, took it on the chin. He supported the lads and did everything I'd expect of him as captain of the team. That's what you have to do. He will want to be in the next team, so he has to be a good pro. Being captain doesn't mean that you have to play in every game."

Johnson, who was dropped by McCarthy for a home game with Sunderland in December, has struggled for form since his summer move from Birmingham.