SENEGAL international striker El-Hadji Diouf has rejected claims he is a “bad boy” and vowed to do his talking on the pitch after completing his switch, subject to paperwork, to Doncaster Rovers.
The controversial forward agreed a three-month contract with the Championship strugglers yesterday, having turned down an offer from West Ham.
Diouf, who has previously plied his trade for Liverpool, Bolton, Sunderland and Rangers, is in contention to make his Rovers debut against Middlesbrough tonight.
The talented 30-year-old, who can operate on either flank or up front, has courted controversy throughout his career in England but he is determined to prove his worth at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Diouf, a free agent after being released by Blackburn Rovers in the summer, said: “I don’t think I am a bad boy. I have never been in jail or done anything really stupid.
“It is only people talking. My business is to play football. The people who know me know who I am.
“I feel like I can get back to my best here.
“I see my future in the Premier League but my focus is on helping this football team.
“I’m focused on doing my best for this club and after that we’ll see what happens.”
He added: “The only thing I knew about Doncaster before signing was Willie McKay.
“I love challenges. I went to Bolton and Rangers when people would not have expected me to do so.
“It is not about money. If I wanted that then I could have gone to Russia or maybe the Middle East but I don’t want to do that yet.”
Diouf says he is ready to be thrown into Rovers relegation battle immediately, having trained with Wigan and West Ham to maintain his fitness levels. He said there has been dialogue between Rovers and his representatives since Dean Saunders appointment at the helm.
Diouf, who has never previously played at Championship level, said: “People can say what they want but the Championship is a good level.
“I have had 10 years in the Premier League so why not test myself in the Championship?”
Diouf is the latest high-profile recruit to move to Rovers behind Chris Kirkland, Herita Ilunga and Pascal Chimbonda.
Rovers are joint bottom of the table with only nine points from 14 matches but Diouf hopes to help the club climb away from the relegation quicksand.
“I’ll try to make myself fit and why not try to help this team stay up?” he said.
The versatile Diouf eases Saunders’ striker shortage. With Jon Parkin returning to Cardiff City following the expiry of his loan deal, Billy Sharp unavailable for selection due to personal reasons and Chris Brown still on the comeback trail from a knee injury, James Hayter was the only recognised centre-forward at Saunders disposal in the 1-1 draw with Coventry City.
Saunders is thrilled to get Diouf, the two-time African Footballer of the Year on board, describing his signing as a “major coup” for the club.
“West Ham offered him a deal, I think, and we’ve managed to persuade him to come and play for us so it’s a brilliant signing for us,” said Saunders. “He is a top player who is going to help us.
“Financially we can’t push the boat out but this is another route we are going down.
“I have tried to give El-Hadji the vision of what I’m doing with the football club.
“He is a quality player. He has got to buy into what we are doing.
“Hopefully it gives all the players a lift and the fans.”
Saunders says the arrangement suits both parties and is backing Diouf to make an impact.
“He is 30, he is not even at his peak. He is a Premier League player and he is probably feeling a bit hard done by that he is still not in there,” he said.
He has acknowledged Diouf is short on match fitness and has urged the player to give it his all in his stint at Rovers.
“El-Hadji seems like a nice lad,” he said. “He has to do well and I have to manage him. I am not frightened about that. I have worked with top players throughout my career and he is just another top player.
“Anyone who comes here with the wrong attitude will not be here long.
“If I bring in these players and they don’t try, they will be out as quick as they come in.”
Diouf started his career in French football, hitting 18 goals in 54 matches for Lens before moving to Liverpool in a £10 million switch in 2002.
Was named in a list of the 125 greatest living footballers selected by Brazilian legend Pele seven years ago.
The 30-year-old striker has notched 21 goals in 69 games in international football.
Sam Allardyce twice signed him - first for Bolton and then for Blackburn in 2009 - and he also played for Rangers on loan at the end of last season.