Harry Redknapp has expressed his delight to have managed “special talent” Papa Bouba Diop during his time at Portsmouth.
The former Senegal international spent three years with Pompey after teaming up with the club from Fulham in 2007.
Diop played a key role for Redknapp’s side as they clinched the FA Cup in 2008 and featured in more than 50 games for the club under the English tactician before leaving for AEK Athens.
The midfielder passed away on Sunday at the age of 42 after a long illness and Redknapp has expressed his sadness for his demise, while eulogizing him for his contributions during his playing years.
“I was very lucky to have managed such a fantastic boy – he was special. He did a great job for me at Portsmouth and I think the Portsmouth fans loved him,” Redknapp told BBC Sport.
“They called him the Wardrobe, he was so big you couldn’t move him. He was a big colossus – you wouldn’t want to play against him.
“I was talking to my son Jamie [Redknapp, former Liverpool and England midfielder] and he said what a nightmare he was to play against.
“He was so powerful – a giant of a man. He would run all over you, was great in the air and he could pass. He was just a special talent.
“I was distraught when I heard the big man had passed away, I just couldn’t believe it. He had been such a healthy, fit, strong guy.
“What an athlete – a giant of a man and to lose him at such an early age is so sad. He was always happy – he never a bad word and would always laugh at the corniest of jokes.
“He looked aggressive on the pitch because he was so big but he always had a smile on his face. I never saw him have a crossword or be miserable – he was always upbeat.”
Diop played a key role as Senegal reached the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup for the first time in their history.
The midfielder had 63 caps and 11 goals for the Teranaga Lions before his retirement from international duty.