Djibril Cissé simply lives to score goals which means that his move to Greek football and Super League leaders Panathinaikos FC is going very nicely indeed.
Before the first leg of Panathinaikos's UEFA Europa League tie with in-form AS Roma, the Frenchman had hit the net 19 times in domestic and UEFA Europa League football. Then came the sweetest feeling for any predatory striker, scoring a dramatic late winner against the Italian side for his 20th of the season.
The 3-2 victory sets up Thursday's return leg as one of the most intriguing and tough-to-call matches in the competition. Not only does Cissé, a UEFA Champions League winner with Liverpool FC in 2005, yearn to bring European glory to his club, he is one of those footballers who makes no bones about the reason he fell in love with the sport in the first place.
"I was inspired to play football right from the start because I just wanted to score goals," grins the amiable 28-year-old. "I wasn't interested in being a defender a midfielder or even a goalkeeper. It was always about scoring goals for me since the very start when I was only seven.
"Also, when I was a kid, Marseille was my team and my idol was Jean-Pierre Papin. That team revolved around players like [Didier] Deschamps, [Basile] Boli and [Marcel] Desailly but I had a special feeling for Papin. He was the best player, the best striker of the time, and even today I'd still regard him as one of the greatest ever.
"I always had my own style and I can't say I just copied him but I did watch a lot of videos of Jean-Pierre playing and scoring. I studied the way he moved, the positions he took so, as a striker, I'm me, but watching him play gave me a little bit of help."
Cissé has drawn on all his experience with AJ Auxerre, Liverpool, Olympique de Marseille and Sunderland AFC to push Panathinaikos to the top of the Greek Super League and to what the Athenians hope will be a berth in the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League.
In November the striker had only scored eight times before what appeared to be a punishing 2-0 derby defeat by Olympiacos FC. Instead of that being a setback, Cissé's goals inspired his side to seven wins, with Sunday's 2-1 loss to PAOK FC their first reverse in a game in which the Frenchman has scored since November.
Cissé points out that character, as much as ability, has helped him thrive in these and other difficult circumstances. "At this level you need to be strong mentally," he said. "Of course you need to be talented, but sometimes talent isn't enough. Injuries happen … or you're having an off day.
"You know you're not fit, and you need to be strong, to say to yourself: 'Yeah well, I'm not good today, tomorrow I'm going to be better'. My philosophy has always been to enjoy football and just be happy when you play. It's only a game, so just enjoy it." With Cissé in such tremendous form, there there is no danger of him doing anything else.
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