The League of Extraordinary Gentleman – and Tough Tacklers

by Ian Mahon

He doesn’t eat. Hasn’t eaten in weeks. Doesn’t need to. For his three seasons in England, Momo Sissoko’s diet was a combination of both grass and the broken souls of opposition midfielders.

Born to tackle.

Rumour has it that at the scene of his birth he slide-tackled three doctors to within an inch of their lives. Apparently he’s the result of a successful medical experiment involving Julian Dicks, a box of nails and a concrete wall.

He’s a rare breed.

Alas, grainy youtube clips are now the closest we can get to seeing this man in action. Can’t get into the Juventus first-team anymore. Injured? Who knows. Kept off the pitch for the safety of others? Probably.

Sissoko is sometimes referred to as the “black ninja”, which is without doubt the most terrifying nickname ever bestowed upon a football player.

Some like to think he didn’t exist. That he was just a myth. The list of people who want to believe this includes Michael BallackRoysten Drenthe and Barcelona’s crossbar.

He was born in Mont-Saint-Aignan but instead of declaring his international allegiances to France, Sissoko opted to play for the land of the tough-tackling midfielders.

According to sources close to this publication, Mali wanted to play Sissoko as part of a 0-3-0 formation in the last African Cup of Nations but were prevented from doing so.

This 0-3-0 formation would have involved Sissoko, Mahamadou Diarra and Seydou Keita. Keita is actually Sissoko’s first cousin, which would have made this formation at least seven times more effective. Here he is talking about the benefits of washing your hands with soap: WASH United – Seydou Keita handwashing with soap.

Sadly, Sissoko was one of the last of his kind. Despite being protected as a tough-tackling midfielder under the Endangered Species Act, he was eventually sold to Juventus in January 2008, leaving Michael Essien (7:30 into this) to fend for himself as the last remaining tough-tackling midfielder in England.

Other players previously protected under the Endangered Species Act have included Claude MakeleleRoy KeaneD’jimi Traore and Patrick Vieira, with the latter strangely returning to the Premiership last season as a newly-reformed not-so-tough-tackling-midfielder-because-he-sits-on-the-bench-all-the-time……midfielder.

Since Sissoko’s departure the Premiership underwent a dry spell, the only comfort being provided from the occasional tough tackles dished out via the not-so-tough-tackling midfielder, most notably Stephen Hunt on this and many other occasions.

But this season has seen a return to the days of old, in the shape of Cheick Tiote (2:00 into this), not to be confused with MMA fighter Cheick Kongo.

Tiote may even have created a new breed of midfielder – the tough-tackling-but-also-able-to-pass-the-ball-and-occasionally-hammer-home-volleys-with-his-left-foot-even-though-he’s-right-footed……midfielder.

Signed by previous manager Chris Hughton from FC Twente for a relatively cheap £3.5 million, Tiote has been a revelation for Newcastle this season – so much so that the club coaxed him into signing a new six-and-a-half year deal towards the end of February, tying him to the club until 2017.

He currently plays his international football for Ivory Coast, but is soon expected to become an honorary Malian in order to line up in a ground-breaking 0-4-0 formation which is expected to send shockwaves throughout the international footballing community. Not this kind of shockwave, more like this.

And with Essien possibly playing premiership football until 2015, Cheick Tiote until 2017, Nigel de Jong until 2013 and Scott Parker until next week, the future is looking bright for the once-endangered tough-tackling midfielder.

Remember, kids. Tough-tackling midfielders are for life. Not just for Christmas.

2 Responses

  1. Vidder says:

    Hahaha, humorous read. Journalist and Juve fan here. Enjoyed your bits of humor on Momo….sad to see him leave (but he still can’t PASS even to his other foot!)

    1. Ian Mahon says:

      Thanks! Is he leaving? I wasn’t too sure on what was happening with him.

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