Redknapp, Mane lead tributes as ex-Fulham star Papa Bouba Diop dies

Papa Bouba Diop

Former Premier League midfielder Papa Bouba Diop has died at the age of 42, according to reports.

Diop arrived in England in 2004 when he joined Fulham from Lens. He went on to play for Portsmouth and briefly West Ham and Birmingham. Reports in his homeland said he had been suffering with a long-term illness.

Fulham tweeted early on Sunday evening: “We are devastated to hear news reports this evening that Papa Bouba Diop has passed away, aged 42. Rest well, Wardrobe.”

Portsmouth posted: “We’re devastated to hear reports that FA Cup winner Papa Bouba Diop has passed away after a long illness, aged just 42. Rest in peace, The Wardrobe.”

Lens tweeted: “It is with great sadness that the Racing Club of Lens has just learned of the passing of its former player Papa Bouba #Diop, at the age of 42. We extend our deepest condolences to his loved ones.”

The 6ft 5in player, nicknamed ‘The Wardrobe’, scored the opening goal at the 2002 World Cup finals. That match saw Senegal upset reigning champions France 1-0.

FIFA said on its World Cup Twitter account: “FIFA is saddened to learn of the passing of Senegal legend Papa Bouba Diop. Once a World Cup hero, always a World Cup hero.”

He made more than 80 appearances in all competitions for Fulham, scoring nine goals. In 2007 Diop moved to Pompey, for whom he featured over 50 times.

Diop, whose also played for Neuchatel Xamax, Grasshoppers and AEK Athens, won 63 caps for his country, scoring 11 goals.

He was a key member of Portsmouth’s 2008 FA Cup-winning side. Harry Redknapp, who managed that team, told Sky Sports News: “Absolutely fantastic character, never heard a bad word for anybody out of his mouth.

“Everyone just loved him. I looked like signing him at Portsmouth and then I lost him, he ended up going to Fulham. I went to watch him at Fulham a few times. He was such a good player, strong and powerful and could pass it. He played in that Senegal team that beat France at the World Cup.

“Then eventually I got him to Portsmouth and he was so influential in what we achieved. He was a top player and a top person, always smiling, always laughing. Papa was just lovely to have around and I’m really upset to hear this news. He really was a special character.”

Papa Bouba Diop remembered

Senegalese Football Federation president Augustin Senghor tweeted: “Thanks to him and the Class of 2002, the whole world discovered Senegal.”

Senegalese president Macky Sall also paid his tribute on Twitter, saying: “The death of Pape Bouba Diop is a great loss for Senegal.

“I pay tribute to a good footballer, respected by all for his courtesy and his talent, proudly reminding us of the Lions saga in 2002. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family and to the football world.”

Current Senegal international and Liverpool star Sadio Mane wrote on Instagram: “Pape Bouba, it was with a broken heart that we learned of your (death). Know that you will forever remain in our hearts even if you left without saying goodbye to us.”