The rehabilitation of Papy Djilobodji continues at pace. The Sunderland-owned defender, who is spending this season on loan at FCO Dijon, is being touted as a possible/probable to be included in the Senegal squad at the World Cup.
Senegal will begin their preparations for Russia 2018 in earnest in March with a couple of friendlies against opposition yet to be announced. Djilobodji is in line for a recall from the international wilderness due to a knee injury to Anderlecht centre-back Kara Mbodj.
Mbodj will be out of action for at least two months and Djilobodji’s form in France has been attracting attention, not least from clubs looking for reinforcements in central defence but also from observers in his native Senegal.
The 29-year-old is said to be wanted by La Liga sides Real Betis and Celta Vigo, though it’s not clear whether Sunderland can recall him from Dijon to fashion a sale in January. Nevertheless, a call up to the Senegal World Cup squad would surely only serve to bump up the value of a player unlikely to return to Wearside.
Djilobodji is under contract with the Black Cats until 2020 and after a disappointing season in the Premier League under David Moyes, the centre back has started every one of Djion’s league games this term.
Looking set in for a relegation battle after failing to win their first five games, Les Mustards have recovered to a healthy-looking mid-table position with half of the campaign now complete.
Indeed such is the eagerness to have him restored to the Senegal camp, Djilobodji even made the front page of this daily French-speaking newspaper a few days ago.
The obstacle to a recall remains Djilobodji’s relationship with Senegal manager Aliou Cissé. The defender has not featured for his country since 2015 after something of a bust up, though both men have indicated a willingness to reconcile - if the other makes the first move that is.
We never know. I work hard in club, hoping to replay with the selection of my country. There was a little problem between the national coach and me, but I'm sure it will be settled.
Said the former Sunderland centre-half.
Djilobodji is back to the competition, it's very good ... his return to the national team depends on him, not me.
Said the national team coach. Won’t someone just lock them in a room together already.
Senegal have been drawn in Group H at the World Cup alongside Colombia, Poland and Japan and are third favourites to qualify at odds of 5/1. The Colombians are presently the bookies’ choice to proceed but in truth, the group looks wide open.
With England set to face Wahbi Khazri’s Tunisia in the opening round, Gareth Southgate’s men could yet encounter Papy Djilobodji and Senegal assuming they can qualify from the group stage. The winners of England’s group will face the runners up of Senegal’s group and vice versa in the Round of 16.