Diaby: The boy who could have been king
If you subscribe to multiverse theory then it is not hard to imagine a world where Abou Diaby's ankle wasn't fractured by Dan Smith on May 1st 2006. That tackle, described by Arsène Wenger at the time as "a bad kick and an unnecessary one", effectively ruined Diaby's career. He has only just announced his retirement but Diaby never truly recovered from that fateful kick.
There are many things you could pick from Wenger's tenure as Arsenal manager and say "what if"--Eduardo's leg break destroying the spirit of a young team on course for the title, Lehmann being sent off in the Champions League final, the departures of Robin van Persie and Fabregas, missing out on Ronaldinho, Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo and more, never leaving Highbury--but the one that sticks out for me is Diaby.
Sadly, we'll never know what could have been because a reckless challenge turned one of the game's brightest future talents into an injury prone mess of broken dreams. Speaking of his retirement Diaby said: "It was time, it had been coming. For a certain number of years now it has been difficult for me to come back. I have had multiple fitness coaches, at one point or another I had to ask myself the burning question. And I decided to quit simply because my body wouldn't follow what I wanted to do any more."
"Of course this is hard, I have given almost all my life to football. It is true that when you stop like this, it is as if a door is closing. But another is also opening. I took the time to think hard about this, it is a decision that has been well thought through, and I am at ease with it."
Hopefully he will still be involved in the game on some level. Sometimes players who have suffered injuries in the way he has want a fresh start away from the game, whilst others turn their hand to coaching or sometimes even physiotherapy. Diaby has certainly spent enough time in treatment rooms all around to world to have picked up a few things that might help future players avoid the types of injuries he struggled with. So he could turn his hand to being a physio in the Premier League, a sports podiatrist in Sydney, a fitness coach in the US, or do what many others do and go into commentating.
Whatever he does in the future, Abou's talent was without question and he seemed the natural evolution of Patrick Vieira, though labels of "the next Patrick Vieira" stemmed from his physique and nationality rather than his playing style. He had a presence, aura, and ability that would have made him the "Vieira" of the Wengerball era. What would have happened in 2008 with a fully fit Diaby with two seasons under his belt? Would we still be waiting for a Champions League title or another Premier League trophy? Would we ever have fallen out of the top four? Would we have lost our best players year after year?
I like to think that the 2008 crop with Diaby would have won the title convincingly and Wenger would have retired 5 years ago with a Champions League trophy, a few more FA Cups and a title or two. A fit Diaby's influence on Arsenal would have been similar to that of Patrick Vieira on the 1998-2005 crop. Take Vieira out of those teams and ask yourself if we'd have been as successful. It is unlikely Diaby would still be playing for Arsenal at 32 but he would have left a legend, a king of the game.Tell us what you think! If you agree, or have a different view, please leave a comment in the comments section or why not write a response or your own article on YouWrite?
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