Didier Zokora: A player reborn

didier-zokoraCan you believe that prior to his move to Tottenham Didier Zokora was linked to Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal? No, I can’t either, and equally unbelievable is the claim that he snubbed them all because he wanted to play first team football…yeah, of course Didier. The tide turned for Zokora at Spurs, turning from a fan favourite to a much-criticised player, his inability to hold his defensive position instead of racing forward costing the club goals and his inability to score when racing forward also not proving popular. His move to Spanish title wannabes Sevilla this summer proved very surprising as there were questions as to why a high-flying side would be interested in a player who had lost favour at Spurs who had just finished another season outside a European spot.

Zokora must have something to him if the big clubs really were interested in him back when he was with Saint Etienne though and Sevilla boss Manuel Jimenez obviously felt himself capable of bringing the best of Zokora back with this £8 million move. It looked like that would be an impossibility; after starting the first game of the season Zokora was dropped and didn’t appear again for a few games, looked like it would be another poor spell for the Ivory Coast midfielder. That wasn’t to be the case though and Zokora has stormed back into the team to become one of the most regular performers at a club who sit third in La Liga and just nine points off leaders Barcelona.

Perhaps Zokora’s play has been made easier by the fact that he is partnered in central midfield by Renato – a tenacious box-to-box midfielder who is just as comfortable flying into a tackle as he is to blast a ranged shot into the goal. Renato’s work rate is such that you could put many players next to him and he’d make Sevilla’s midfield look good. But that’s taking nothing away from Zokora who has played his part in Sevilla’s season, helping their passing game by spraying passes out to the more creative players who then race forward to help another attack. Sevilla’s focus is on attacking rather than defending and that helps Zokora since he prefers to push forward with the team than stay disciplined, he isn’t being punished for it so much with the Spanish club.

It seems that the Spanish league suits Zokora – it’s slower paced than England which allows Zokora to actually think about what he’s doing rather than acting mindlessly like he did for Spurs. He wasn’t a terrible player at Spurs and gets more criticism than is actually warranted and his ability is showing now that there is confidence in him with Jimenez possessing lots of faith in him and being unafraid to tell him so. That move to a big club will never materialise for Zokora but he’ll be happy being a regular for Sevilla who are looking to become a big club themselves – they are not far away after all.