Pitchside Europe

The curious career of Djemba-Djemba, so good they named him twice

Eric Djemba-Djemba's unusual career took another unexpected turn on Wednesday, when the former Manchester United midfielder was proudly presented as St Mirren's star signing.

Djemba-Djemba, 32, joins the Buddies on a free transfer after his release by Serbian bigwigs Partizan Belgrade. Above, he is pictured with Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and some other bloke loosely connected to Manchester United.

The Cameroonian midfielder only made a dozen or so appearances for Partizan, who - it seems - quickly realised what it took other clubs a couple of years to work out: this gentleman is not for keeping.

The mention of Djemba-Djemba's name is usually greeted with merriment on these isles, but it would be unfair to label him as a complete flop. After all, he has made a good living from a number of clubs, and appeared to find his level after starring for Danish side Odense in a four-year-spell, his best - and longest - at any team.

Unfortunately for Djemba-Djemba, OB did not provide the platform from which he could relaunch a career that seemed all-but over in his mid-20s. Unhappy spells in Israel and most recently Serbia mean that he has been forced to join one of the Scottish Premiership's weaker sides.

We take a look at Eric Djemba-Djemba's career, and wonder where it all went wrong...


The Early Years: Midfield General

Born in Douala, Cameroon, Djemba-Djemba burst on to the scene at French side Nantes, where he formed a formidable partnership with Mathieu Berson, who would eventually be reunited with his friend at Villa.


Le Big Chance: Looking for Eric

Let's be honest, no-one but the biggest Championnat nerds had any idea who Djemba-Djemba was when he arrived at Old Trafford in a £3.5m deal. Manchester United's 'other' Eric, a certain Mr Cantona, had also learned his trade in France. Maybe Fergie had uncovered another gem?


Second Chance: Villa revival?

Sometimes, Fergie gets it wrong, and it seemed to be the case this time. Djemba was given plenty of opportunities, but he simply wasn't good enough to be a long-term replacement for Roy Keane. United took a £2m loss on him, Villa took a punt and - at a relatively low price - surely they could get some value out of him? Certainly his haircut looked more expensive...


Burnley: The Beginning of the End

No disrespect to the Clarets, but this wasn't Djemba-Djemba had in mind when his agent sealed that dream move to England. Things got even worse for him at Villa, where he was brought in to resume that midfield partnership with Berson. They flopped and, after trying to deny that he had launched a withering attack on Villa boss David O'Leary in a Eurosport interview, the video evidence left him embarrassed and facing an exit. O'Leary went first, but successor Martin O'Neill was similarly unimpressed.

The second tier is a decent standard, but this was a man who had played at the World Cup, and he was struggling. The weaknesses in even the best scouting networks are most ruthlessly exposed in the rough-and-tumble of English football. Still in his peak-hair phase.


Exit Stage Right: Qatar, The Knackers Yard

It looked like he had given up on any hope of a meaningful career in Europe when, aged 26, Djemba-Djemba took Qatar's petrodollars, the type of move usually reserved for washed-up old pros with glittering CVs but no knees. But he did well in the lower standard, regained some confidence and was soon on his way back to Europe...


Northern Lights: The Golden Years

The Danish SuperLiga is not the Premier League. But it isn't too shabby and its top players usually fare well in England, Germany, Italy and Spain. And, for three or four years, Eric Djemba-Djemba was one of the Danish SuperLiga's best players. He even got to play in Europe again, albeit mostly in the Europa League. The form that led to his big move to United appeared to return as he was once again courted by Premier League clubs. But a 2010 move to promoted West Brom broke down, and that - it seemed - was the end of his dream to prove the doubters wrong.


Cash Calling: Back to the Middle East

One of the benefits of playing in Israel is that one gets the climate of the Middle East with the prospect of European football. Djemba-Djemba may not have managed to get back to England, but he was now the go-to journeyman for teams with lofty ambitions. Hapoel Tel-Aviv came calling but, after a bright start, he lost his way and only lasted a season. Here he is pictured with Walid Badir, another player who failed to make the grade in the Premier League.


Back On The Continent: Into the fire...

We're not sure who told Djemba-Djemba that a move to the Balkans was a good idea - clubs and fans don't take too kindly to under-performing players, and while Partizan Belgrade could offer Champions League football, they could not offer much in the way of hospitality. Eric barely lasted the winter at Partizan and, despite having penned a two-year contract, was unceremoniously dumped two days before Christmas.


Back In Britain: One Last Hurrah?

After six weeks without a club, Djemba-Djemba was unveiled as St Mirren's star signing, able to join after the transfer window shut on account of being a free agent. Provided he is still fit, Djemba-Djemba should prove a decent acquisition as the Buddies seek to preserve top-flight status. Clearly he isn't a bad player - but whatever Sir Alex Ferguson and co. saw in him back in 2003 was not translatable to the highest level. United fans may be 'Looking for Eric', but this Eric may well have found his own level. Good luck!