Le Tissier and Souness reveal the TRUE story behind Ali Dia
‘I thought he had won a competition to come train with us!’: Matt Le Tissier and Graeme Souness reveal the TRUE story behind Ali Dia, George Weah’s ‘useless cousin’, who was ‘everywhere the ball had just been’ in his only game for Southampton
- Ali Dia played just one game for Southampton after coming through a trial
- He was brought on against Leeds but was substituted back off as he was so bad
- Graeme Souness and Matt Le Tissier have now discussed how Dia came to play
It is a story that has passed into footballing folklore and now Ali Dia’s former manager Graeme Souness and team-mate Matt Le Tissier have revealed the truth about one of the Premier League’s most bizarre signings.
Dia featured for just one game for Southampton in 1996. Souness received a call from someone purporting to be FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah – telling him his cousin wanted a club.
Southampton took him on trial and he ended up featuring in a game against Leeds on November 23, 1996. He has now become known as one of the worst Premier League players of all time.
The story of Ali Dia, who played one game for Southampton, is now part of footballing folklore
Dia filmed during training with Southampton and his time on trial with the club
An injury crisis meant that he was given the chance to play against Leeds at the weekend
But the real story owes a lot to luck, with Souness admitting that they knew he was ‘useless’ from the off.
Speaking on Sky Sports, he said: ‘It’s a great story and a funny story but it’s not quite what you read or hear.
‘Someone at the club gets a call that George Weah’s cousin or nephew wanted a trial. Matt will know we had loads of trialists in. That’s how we got Eyal Berkovic.
‘This guy turns up. Everyone knows in the first five minutes of a game whether a player can play. He’s useless. But we didn’t have enough players for an eight a side.
‘More and more players got injured as the week went on (so we don’t have the numbers for a game). Matt was our only fit forward.
Dia came close to scoring a goal in that match but Graeme Souness described him as ‘useless’
‘We had Leeds. Matt got injured 20 minutes in. (Scout) Terry Cooper said we had to have Ali Dia on the bench. Worst case scenario he’d come on and be a pest.
‘He came on for Matt. He was everywhere the ball had just been. But no one was kidded or conned.
‘We knew within five minutes of training he was not very good, but it’s a good story.’
Le Tissier then took up the story: ‘I thought he had won a competition to come train with us to be honest.
‘When he turned up on the Saturday and he was sat in the changing room, I thought, “Wow, that’s a pretty great competition, he’s going to give the team talk!”.
Souness said he gave Dia a shot as they needed to have a striker on the bench for that game
‘I pulled my thigh muscle and never told Graeme this – I was taking some penalties on the Friday and felt a tweak. I thought it wouldn’t be too bad. I thought I’d get away with it.
‘About 20 minutes into the game I went to whip a ball in, overextended and tore my thigh muscle.
‘It was my fault and I was the player who was substituted for probably the worst ever player in the Premier League.’
Dia was substituted himself because his performance was so awful. He would be released just 14 days into the one-month contract he signed at Southampton and went on to play for the likes of Gateshead and Spennymoor United before retiring.
Now 54, he got a degree from Northumbria University in 2001 and his son Simon now plays football for Police Tero in the Thai League 1.
Matt Le Tissier laughed about it all and said he thought Dia had been a competition winner
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