There are no secrets in football, especially when it comes to the transfer market.
When N’Golo Kante popped up, seemingly out of nowhere, to inspire Leicester to a Premier League title, it felt like Claudio Ranieri had used some form of cheat code.
Jose Mourinho’s comments in the wake of Man United’s 3-1 loss to West Ham hinted at another piece of magical conjuring by a scout working silently in the shadows.
Mourinho said: “Congratulations to the scout that found a 21-year-old kid Diop- a monster who dominated in the duels.”
Diop was recommended to the Hammers by Mark McKay, the scout responsible for taking Dimitri Payet from Marseille to England.
But, when it comes to Mourinho, nothing is ever straightforward. It’s easy to interpret Mourinho’s comments as a dig towards his own scouting department.
Diop would have been on the scouting radar of United, and every other top division side in Europe for that matter.
Unlike Kante, Diop hasn’t sprung up from relative obscurity.
Kante spent a single season in France’s top flight, playing for unfashionable Caen, before making the leap to English football.
Diop, who made his Toulouse debut 2015, was averaging 26 appearances a season in Ligue 1 at the point West Ham came calling.
The defender was captain of Toulouse last season which, given his young age, would have turned heads and increased the amount of scouts appearing at each game.
Then there’s his performances for France’s youth sides.
Diop has represented France from the Under-16s all the way through to the Under-21s.
He was part of the France Under-19 side that won the European Championships in 2016, playing alongside Kylian Mbappe and Marcus Thuram.
Diop was named in the Team of the Tournament. Even if you were a narcoleptic scout and fell asleep at the start of every France game he’d still have popped up on your radar.
United’s scouts won’t be the the only scouting department cursing their luck at not getting out the cheque book for Diop this summer.
But that’s the nature of the transfer market. You win some, you lose some.
Unfortunately for United, when it comes to centre-backs the losses have outweighed the wins of late.
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