x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Djibril Cisse's Italian renaissance

A strong start with Lazio has seen the striker enjoy an international revival, writes Ian Hawkey.

The French forward, Djibril Cisse, got a standing ovation from the crowd during the match against Albania.
The French forward, Djibril Cisse, got a standing ovation from the crowd during the match against Albania.

Ovations like the one given to Djibril Cisse last Friday night at the Stade de France are rare.

It is still rarer to hear them directed at a member of the France squad who, less than two years ago, performed so poorly at the World Cup.

Cisse himself was taken aback by how his compatriots acclaimed him as he warmed up along a touchline in the second half of his country's 3-0 win against Albania, easing France towards their place at the Euro 2012 finals.

Cisse was the object of such affection because of his transparent delight at earning a recall to Les Bleus after a 15-month absence.

His history as an international is chequered with bad luck. He made his France debut fully 11 seasons ago, while with Auxerre, but missed Euro 2004 because of suspension, broke a leg on the eve of the 2006 World Cup and was dropped at the 11th hour before Euro 2008.

"The public appreciate how much he loves being with the national team," said Laurent Blanc, the France head coach.

Cisse, 30, is especially grateful to his new club, Lazio, for propelling him into Blanc's thoughts. He moved to Serie A in the summer after two successful seasons in Greece with Panathinaikos.

"I needed to be in a higher profile league to be noticed again," he said. He made an exuberant start in Italian football.

The striker struck four goals in his first three matches for Lazio, including a thumping effort on his Serie A debut, the 2-2 draw at champions Milan.

So, now for the big one, Sunday's derby against Roma. Scoring in derbies seems something of a speciality in the career of the imaginatively coiffured, extravagantly-tattooed Cisse.

He signed off his Panathinaikos career with both goals in a 2-0 win over their neighbours AEK Athens last May. In the match before that, he had scored in the so-called Derby of Eternal Enemies, against Olympiakos.

Reel back to his season in the English Premier League at Suwas on the scoresheet at Newcastle United. In both his Tyne-Wear derbies, he hit goals, including the opener in a 2-1 home win.

While at Marseille, Cisse struck goals at the grounds of both their Cote d'Azur rivals, Monaco and Nice; in 2007/08 he also notched a Marseille goal in the "super derby", against Paris Saint-Germain, away.

And at Liverpool, in the Premier League, where he played for two seasons and won the Champions League? You guessed it: Cisse scored at Everton, in a 3-1 win.