Out-on-loan defender Papy Djilobodji has earned himself a re-call to the Senegal national team squad following an exile which has seen him miss out on international action for over three years.
There had been rumblings in late December that the former Chelsea man would find himself selected for action by Senegal boss Aliou Cisse, news that was finally confirmed today ahead of Les Lions de la Téranga double-header with Uzbekistan and Bosnia & Herzegovina at the end of the month.
Djilobodji’s recall from the international wilderness comes largely due to a knee injury to Anderlecht centre-back Kara Mbodj, who is usually first choice.
Mbodj will be out of action for a few more weeks yet 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 reasons for Papy’s non-inclusion in his national team’s squad has not been made entirely clear beyond suggestions that there had been something of a bust up between the player and head coach Cissé, but both men have spoke about being willing to reconcile - something which we can now assume has happened ahead of what is set to be an incredibly difficult summer for the African side.
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 around 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.
The 29-year-old is said to be wanted by clubs both in Spain and France following some fine performances, and 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 redeemed himself with a steady spell out on loan with mid-table Dijon FCO.