El-Hadji Diouf’s future at Leeds United was cast in fresh doubt last night after manager Brian McDermott revealed that the forward is not being considered for selection due to personal issues and lengthy absences from training.
McDermott said he and Diouf would discuss the 32-year-old’s options when the January transfer window opened with Diouf out of contract at the end of the season and unlikely to feature at all for Leeds before the turn of the year.
The former Liverpool striker has been missing from Thorp Arch with McDermott’s permission – United’s manager allowed him to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa this week and again denied suggestions of a fall-out – but McDermott said that he was in no position to name Diouf in his matchday squads amid limited contact with him.
Diouf will not be involved in tomorrow’s Championship game against Doncaster Rovers, the club he played for before joining Leeds.
His bit-part role in United’s season has been a constant source of confusion, though he was hindered in August by suspension and injury and missed Leeds’ 4-0 rout of Birmingham City after flying to France to attend the funeral of Bruno Metsu, the ex-Senegal coach who took him to the 2002 World Cup.
McDermott said: “He’s spent quite a lot of time away recently, travelling over to Senegal and dealing with a few things he needed to sort out personally.
“It’s been difficult for Dioufy and it’s difficult for me to give him an opportunity because quite frankly he’s not been around the training ground so much. It’s tough but that’s where we are with him.
“I’m not saying there’s an issue between us because there’s not. But basically he hasn’t done a lot of training. To give himself every opportunity to play, he has to be training and he has to be up to speed. That goes for everyone here.
“His circumstances are what they are. He’s got a few personal things happening and sometimes there are more important things in life than football.
“But from a footballing point of view, obviously you have to be in and around the training ground. You have to be up to speed.”
Diouf is 18 months into an unlikely career at Leeds which began in the summer of 2012 when ex-United boss Neil Warnock – a manager who had previously denounced Diouf as a “sewer rat” – signed him on non-contract terms and then persuaded him to take up a short-term deal worth £5,000 a week.
Diouf doubled his salary with a contract extension last December and played regularly under both Warnock and McDermott but his appearances have dwindled since he incurred a red card on the penultimate weekend of last season and then returned from a summer holiday in Africa with a shin infection.
Leeds were open to offers for him in the last transfer window and the club and Diouf might look to go their separate ways when January arrives.
“I’ve spoken to him about that and I’ve said ‘see what happens in January’,” McDermott said.
“We’ll see what the situation is - if he’s in the team or not - and then we’ll talk again.
“I’ve got no problem with him but from my point of view, you have to be training don’t you? You have to be involved and around the place. That’s nothing to do with the personal side. It’s all about the professional side. It’s very straightforward.
“There’ve been different circumstances for Dioufy and he was at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Nelson Mandela gave him the African player of the year award and was a great, great man. Dioufy felt he needed to be at the funeral and I wouldn’t take that away from him.”