New Hibs striker Franck Dja Djedje has revealed how, as a rising young star in France, a dream move to Chelsea fell through because the English giants weren’t prepared to cough up the asking price.
Dja Djedje began his career at Paris St Germain but rubbed shoulders with the likes of Spurs duo Hugo Lloris and Younes Kaboul, and former Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye as he played at every age level for France from Under 17s to 21, amassing 37 caps along the way and helping the French lift the 2005 Under-19 European Championship in Belfast.
Along the way he caught the eye of Blues boss Jose Mourinho during his first spell at Stamford Bridge but, he revealed, PSG’s demands were too great not only for Chelsea but fellow London outfit Charlton Atheltic.
He said: “When I was young and in the French youth team people said to me that my style would suit British football because I love the challenge, the contact and always give 100 per cent. I was close to signing for Chelsea when I was 19 but PSG asked for a lot of money and it did not work out.
“Later I had trials with Charlton but again it was the same, the money being asked for me was too much.”
Dja Djedje was to play only five games for PSG and spent the next nine years featuring for a host of French clubs including Grenoble, Strasbourg, Arles-Avignon and Nice before heading for Chornomorets Odesa in Ukraine which turned into a frightening experience as the area descended into civil war.
He said: “It became difficult, dangerous for me and my family so I decided to leave the country for my own safety, sending my family ahead of me. The club offered three solutions: to stay and train with all the hazards that meant, to leave until the situation settled down, or break my contract – and that’s what happened.”
Armed with Europa League experience from his time with Chornomorets, Dja Djedje signed a short-term deal with Norwegian side Sarpsborg before moving on to Dinamo Minsk in Belarus. But he was persuaded to try his luck in Scotland after speaking to his close friend and former Hibs player Sol Bamba. He revealed: “Sol and I were at the PSG Academy together when I was 13. We came from the same country (the Ivory Coast), our parents knew each other so there was a close link.
“Sol was a year older than me, he was like a big brother and when he had a flat I would go and stay with him.
“In France we know two Scottish clubs, Celtic and Rangers but because Sol was playing for Hibs I would watch them on the television when I could.
“Sol told me I should take this opportunity because I would enjoy playing here. He convinced me this would be the right move so when I saw the manager [Alan Stubbs] he did not have to say much to persuade me to sign.”
Now Dja Djedje, who represented the Ivory Coast at the 2008 Olympics, is determined to use the experience he has gained to help Hibs win promotion from the Championship believing he’s now at the peak of his career.
As he prepared to make his debut against Falkirk at Easter Road today, he said: “My ambition is to play in the top league with Hibs and then in Europe also.
“I had no problems coming to the second league in Scotland and I have seen the quality of our players. It’s only been a month since I last played and I’ve been working with a fitness coach so while I am not 100 per cent at the moment I hope to be part of the game later today.”
Dja Djedje is well aware that fellow Frenchmen new team-mates Farid El Alagui, who helped him negotiate his first press conference at East Mains, and Dominique Malonga, arrived in Scotland as virtual unknowns but rapidly became popular figures, and he is hoping he will follow suit.
He said: “Obviously I want to succeed here in Scotland and make a name for myself quite quickly. I don’t just want to be here for a short time.
“I want to stay as long as I can.”