Former Manchester United midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba celebrates his 36th birthday today, and everyone here at Shoot! would like to wish the ex-Cameroon international many happy returns!
Djemba-Djemba began his senior career at Nantes in 2001 before sealing a £3.5 million move to United in the summer of 2003 after two decent seasons in Ligue 1.
There was much promise and expectation when he moved to Old Trafford 14 years ago, with many seeing him as the eventual successor to captain Roy Keane, although things certainly didn’t work out for the midfielder, appearing just 35 times for the Red Devils before moving on in the summer of 2005.
Djemba-Djemba ended his Old Trafford nightmare by signing for fellow Premier League outfit Aston Villa in a bid to resurrect his career, yet things didn’t work out well there either, spending just two years at Villa Park before having his contract terminated by the Midlands side in 2007.
So, with the midfielder celebrating his 36th birthday today, we at Shoot! thought we’d take a quick look back at his time in England, see where he went after that, and what he’s up to now…
As aforementioned, Djemba-Djemba was brought to United by manager Sir Alex Ferguson in 2003 following an impressive time at Nantes, yet he never really showed his ability and full potential at Old Trafford.
He made a decent enough start to life in Manchester with goals against Panathinaikos in the Champions League and Leeds in the League Cup, yet that was as good as it got for the Cameroon star, who would go on to make just 21 appearances in his first season at the club.
Yet it got worse in his second campaign at Old Trafford, with Djemba-Djemba failing to net or registering an assist in 14 appearances in all competitions, and it became remarkably clear that he was not the answer in that midfield area for United.
And that saw him leave the North West as early as the January transfer window in 2005, with David O’Leary’s Villa securing a £1.5 million deal for the 30-year-old, with themselves clearly hoping that a fresh start would benefit Djemba-Djemba after a testing time in English football.
But it didn’t.
The midfielder continued to struggle in the Premier League, making just six further appearances in the 2004/05 season, and then just four the season after as the Villans narrowly avoided the drop, finishing 16th in the end.
The 2006/07 campaign saw him appear just once for Villa, in the first game at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal, before being shipped out on loan to Championship side Burnley in January 2007, where his English football career took another turn for the worse when, in just his second appearance for the Clarets, he was sent off in their 1-0 defeat to Derby on January, 30 2007.
Djemba-Djemba returned to Villa in the summer after 15 appearances at Turf Moor, yet the club decided to terminate his contract at the start of August.
So, where did Djemba-Djemba go after his spell in England?
Well, it won’t be a surprise to know that he didn’t stay in England – in fact he signed for Qatar SC in September and enjoyed a solid season at the club before sealing a deal to join Danish side Odense in the summer of 2008.
Djemba-Djemba then enjoyed his longest stint at one club with Odense, spending four years there and appearing 129 times before seeing his contract expire in 2012.
And since then, the 30-year-old hasn’t been able to find regular football anywhere, with spells at Hapoel Tel Aviv and Partizan succeeded by time at Scottish side St Mirren, as well as stints in India and Indonesia, and more recently in a French amateur league with Voltigeurs de Châteaubriant.
However, Djemba-Djemba has found a new club in the past six months or so, as back in November 2016 he signed for Swiss side FC Vallorbe-Ballaigues, another amateur side, where he has a contract until June this year.