After spending just one year at Sunderland following a good loan spell from Chelsea at Werder Bremen, Papy Djilobodji decided against playing in the Championship, ending up back in Ligue 1, where José Mourinho was told to pluck him from, with Dijon.
Leaving Simon Grayson’s new team to return to France, the Senegal international made his debut at the weekend in a 2-1 loss to Caen, yet, despite the result, everything else is going to plan.
Speaking to France Football, the 28-year-old explained he was ‘happy to be back in France and back on the pitch’, something he ‘had missed last season’ at the Stadium of Light, making just 18 league appearances under David Moyes.
Still not quite at 100%, Djilobodji hopes to get there soon, and took some time during the interview to explain his decision to join Dijon late on in the transfer window.
He said: “I spoke to their president and the manager on the phone. I also looked at a few clips of their games last year. It all appealed to me, and it motivated me to come make my mark here. I was at Sunderland, I was training, and I ended up having a few contacts.
“In football, you don’t know what will happen. You can’t know your future, so if an interesting opportunity presents itself, you have to take it. I wasn’t all that motivated at the idea of playing Championship football. I had this chance to go back to Ligue 1. I’m going to work and enjoy it.”
Despite starting the campaign with Sunderland last season, playing relatively regularly, David Moyes left the defender on the bench for the remainder of his tenure there following his suspension for a heated tussle with West Brom’s Darren Fletcher.
Djilobodji explained what went through his mind: “I never went to see the manager to ask him anything. For me, it was up to him to see what I did at training. I supported the team and remained professional. It wasn’t easy. Now, I’m thinking about the future.”
Briefly discussing his transfer to Chelsea, that ‘everyone keeps talking to him about’, the centre-back also revealed what his ambitions are for the future, regardless of what people have to say about him.
He said: “That kind of stuff doesn’t get to me. I know my qualities. I don’t really pay attention to others. I only care about my work. It’s all about progress, and why not aim for Real Madrid.
“It’s still a dream of mine. You need dreams in life, and then work towards them. I’ve loved them since I was a child, from a very young age. I’ve always supported that team.”
First, though, it seems Djilobdji just wants to have a good season with Dijon, and that’s what he’s focused on for now, having marked all the games on his calendar, not just those against his former team Nantes (with the first coming on the 28th of October).
Regarding a return to Sunderland, where he is under contract until 2020, after this season, that wasn’t mentioned.
We’ll have to wait and see.