Signed as a free transfer by Southampton in 1996, despite making only one appearance with a non-league semi-pro club, the Blyth Spartans, Dia finessed his way onto the field for 53 minutes of a single Premier League match. He left a legacy behind that has withstood the test of time. Dia was signed without hesitation as a free transfer by Southampton in 1996, through a trustworthy recommendation from AC Milan striker George Weah, the previous year’s winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or, during a call to manager Graeme Souness.
Weah, who amazingly enough is the current president of Liberia, informed Souness that Dia was his cousin. As you can probably guess, Dia and Weah were not related. Weah wasn’t aware of Dia’s existence and he definitely did not dial up Souness. It’s not even clear if he even knew Souness existed. Instead, the “George Weah call” was later revealed to have been a serendipitous prank orchestrated by an acquaintance of Dia.
After joining the club for training, Dia was originally intended to debut in a reserve friendly against Leeds United where his inadequate skills would have given him away. However, fate meddled when the pitch they were scheduled to play on was waterlogged from a thunderstorm. Then, 32 minutes into the first half of a match against Leeds United, starting midfielder Matt Le Tissier pulled a thigh muscle and Souness replaced him with Dia.
Somehow, Dia nearly scored on a direct shot at Leeds goalkeeper Nigel Martin, but spent his 53 minutes mostly running aimlessly or as Le Tissier famously described it, “like Bambi on ice.”
Nobody had reached out to Blyth Spartan either. Their manager recalled wondering where Dia was on match day until noticing him stalking around the pitch in a Southampton kit on Match of the Day that evening.
The man who conned his way onto a Premier League pitch should have made millions selling his story. Instead, he disappeared into the wind just as surreptitiously as he arrived. Today, Dia is still recognized as the worst transfer in Premier League history, which is a Monty Python “tis’ but flesh wound” tier understatement.
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