Hearts cult hero Clevid Dikamona explains talks with Rangers, Liverpool and Tottenham as he starts new chapter of his career
Clevid Dikamona sat alone in the Park Hotel adjacent to Rugby Park knowing his life needed new direction. It was time to prioritise family and happiness over football.
At just 31, he is already starting to wind down his playing career after a year at Kilmarnock and two with Hearts. The 16-month Covid 19 pandemic has taught the defender what matters most in life, and his new-found contentment is palpable all the way from the family home in northwestern France
Dikamona has returned to his roots and joined forces with younger brother Celin to work as a football agent. They recently held talks with Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Rangers regarding some of the talented French youngsters within their stable.
At the same time, Dikamona will continue playing with local French fifth-tier side AG Caen while helping them develop into a club capable of reaching France’s professional leagues. A sporting director role somewhere in the future is an infinite possibility for a man with both a sporting and business brain.
The change has been uplifting, influenced heavily by his father becoming unwell last winter while Dikamona was stuck in Scotland. Kilmarnock gave him compassionate leave to return home and at that point he knew some major decisions had to be made.
“You are playing football without fans and without family around you,” he explained in an exclusive Evening News interview. “I would not say it was boring but, for me, it was not football. Sometimes I asked myself: ‘What am I doing here?’
“I was staying in the hotel at Kilmarnock and I was thinking maybe it was time to get some normality and stability back for my family. I decided to finish my contract and go home. Maybe the only club who could make me stay in the UK would be Hearts. This way, I am still in football but in a different role.
“When my father was sick, Kilmarnock let me go home just to be with him. The gaffer could have told me to stay because we were playing games and I was in the team. He gave me ten days off to go back to France, then I had to quarantine for ten days.
“The club gave me that opportunity and I am thankful. It was lockdown, my family were away, my father was sick, I decided it was too much for me. I look strong, like a big guy, but when it’s my family it’s different. I said: ‘No. I can’t do it.’
“Now, every day when I’m going home, I know I will see my kids and my wife. If I want to see my dad, I just need to drive my car. I don’t need to take a flight and travel for eight hours. It’s much easier for me.”
Having helped his brother finance the agency business, Dikamona had the perfect opportunity awaiting him back home. “I put money into his business to help him start up. When football stopped for the first lockdown, I remembered I had helped him. I take pleasure in advising young players in academies and sharing my experience with them,” he said.
“In the last few months, some of our young players have done well in France. We started to speak with big teams like Liverpool, Tottenham and even Rangers. We have some good youngsters right now but we don’t want to have too many. We want to give each of them our best and take care of them, so we will keep no more than 15 players.
“I’m sure I will have some players for Hearts soon. I will have a chat with Joe Savage [Hearts sporting director], no worries.”
He blurts out a giggle but would happily do deals with the Edinburgh club where fans affectionately know him as their ‘Jambo Soldier’.
Sporting director role
Playing football is still a serious issue for this Congolese international centre-back in among other business interests. Avant Garde Caen FC is very much the little brother of Stade Malherbe Caen, the French Ligue 2 club where Dikamona began his senior career back in 2008.
He is happy to play for the smaller part-time side now and act as a consultant on football and infrastructure issues. “AG Caen asked me if I could help them with their development. They want to reach professional level in France so I said ‘yes’.
“I still love playing but this allows me to put a foot in this kind of area, like a sporting director. Right now, I will start to do my courses to be an agent and I am here in Caen with all my family so I am very happy.”
What kind of agent will he be? Rather than try to emulate a Jorge Mendes or Mino Raiola, he simply intends to be himself. “I will try to be as honest as I can,” he explained. “When I speak to some parents about their kids, I say: ‘Yes, it’s true I am here because I have an interest in your kid but I will always make sure that the kid’s interest is in front of mine.’
“If the player feels good, he will play good. Then I will be a good person and a good agent with the money I will get. I will just give my best for my players. I know the reputation of agents so I think honesty will help me a lot in this career.
“I started working with my brother because some agents just tried to take money from me. I was not comfortable with that. I know my brother is a good guy, he is my younger brother, so I am in control and I feel fine. I want my players to feel the same – that they can trust me.”