Wenger was never happy with me, says Diarra

Click to follow
The Independent Football

In one of the more improbable scenarios of this season Lassana Diarra, having left Chelsea in August, then Arsenal in January, could wind up collecting more silverware than his ex-team-mates at either club.

If he does it will further convince him he was right to leave both in search of first-team football, even Arsenal who, having lost Mathieu Flamini, now seek a young, versatile holding midfielder rather like Diarra.

"I don't think about Arsenal now, I am just focused on Portsmouth," the 23-year-old Frenchman said as he prepared for Saturday's FA Cup final at Portsmouth's Hampshire training ground. "I left Arsenal because I wanted to play every week. When you are in the team, and even if you play well, the manager doesn't put you on the pitch [for the next game] you have to do something. Every time he put me on the pitch I tried to do my best. For him, I don't know if it was good enough, but for me..."

Diarra may have no regrets, but might Arsène Wenger regret letting him leave, albeit for a swiftly turned profit of around £3m? "I don't know and I don't care," said Diarra. "I am at Portsmouth now and all I care about is Portsmouth."

If Diarra appears to have little time for Wenger, he speaks more affectionately of Jose Mourinho, who signed him for Chelsea from Le Havre as a teenager.

"He spoke with me, not like my dad, but he explained everything to me. This is why when I am doing so well I think back to some of the words he said to me two or three years ago. I remember him telling me when I was at Chelsea 'you have the quality so just believe in yourself. You are young. If you work hard your time will come'.

"I hope he gets a big team and good luck to him. I respect Arsène and Jose, but I know which one I prefer."

How long Diarra stays at Portsmouth remains to be seen. He makes no secret of having greater ambitions than are likely to be achievable at Fratton Park – "I want to win the Champions League" – and admits "you never know what is going to happen [in the future]." But he adds: "I will be at the final on Saturday, and here next season, and I am very happy."

Niko Kranjcar, who has been linked with a summer move to Arsenal, was more effusive. Now in his second season with Portsmouth the Croatian said getting into Europe (winning the FA Cup brings the reward of a Uefa Cup place) would convince him he can achieve everything he wants at the club.

"The quality is here," he said. "You just have to look at the players here and see what they have won in their careers. We have a great future here and a team that is ready to play big games."