Double dose of Diouf
They are not related, but Mame Biram Diouf and Pape Pathe Diouf share more in common than a last name and their club. The Senegalese duo are the top scorers at Norwegian top flight outfit Molde FK, who currently lie second in the Tippeligaen behind runaway leaders Rosenborg.
Winger Pape Diouf moved to Scandinavia from Sporting Club Rufisque in 2006, finally finding his feet after a few problems at the start, before emerging as a key figure for the six-time runners-up. His record in 2008 showed four goals in 21 games, but the 23-year-old already has nine in 22 this term.
"Contrary to what people in Senegal seem to think, the Norwegian league is a good one. It's very physical here, and most of the players have good technical skills. I'm comfortable on either the right or the left wing and I'm very happy with where I am," Pape Diouf told a magazine in his homeland.
The player's dramatically improved displays are the best proof he has finally settled in the far north of Europe. His goals have propelled Molde to within reach of another shot at European competition, and the club still retain a theoretical chance of winning the league, although at ten points off serial champions Trondheim with six games to play, the possibility seems remote. However, after an eighth-placed finish last term, the runners-up spot would represent solid progress for the two-time cup winners.
The goal-getter has yet to feature for his country, although his youthful age and accelerated pace of development suggest the honour of pulling on a Senegal jersey may be his sooner rather than later.
And if he can keep up his current strike rate, scouts from the bigger European leagues will surely sit up and take notice of the man who wears the number 42 shirt at club level. His fellow-countryman and team-mate Mame Diouf is one step ahead, at least in this respect.
In mid-July this year, no less a club than Manchester United announced that the 21-year-old had inked a deal taking him to the north-west of England. However, the terms of the talented young African's move to the Premier League included a clause allowing him to see out the season with Molde. "It's always been my dream to play for United. It's been the case since I was a little boy. I hope I can make a contribution, starting in January 2010. I'm confident of playing well," he told Norwegian daily Stavanger Aftenblad when the switch was made public.
Diouf's career began to take off at Dakar outfit ASC Diaraf, before the promising youngster arrived in Norway in January 2007. He now seems set to reap the reward for his courage in moving so far from home at a young age. He and Pape swiftly became firm friends, easing the potentially awkward transition from Africa to Scandinavia.
Despite his relative lack of experience, the player is by no means short on confidence, as he showed in a recent interview published in his home country. "Pape and I are generally involved in our team's best moves," the 1.85m striker was quoted as saying. "If I'm in good shape, I'm a regular in the starting line-up. Pape and I are important members of the Molde squad, and we've played our part in this season's success."
Diouf has scored 14 goals in 23 outings so far this season and heads the Norwegian top flight scoring charts. The Senegal international's best display of term came on 12 July with a rapid-fire burst of four goals in 27 minutes in a 5-2 triumph over SK Brann, also including a hat-trick in the first ten minutes.
Ferguson: We had to act
At the time of his signing for United, the young striker's burgeoning potential was underlined in comments made by his new boss in England, legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson: "We basically weren't planning to make any more signings, because we have a full squad. But we've been watching this young player for two years, and when other clubs started tabling offers, we had to act."
In switching to the Red Devils, Diouf is following in the footsteps of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who also turned out for Molde FK before making the move to England. It is a momentous step, and when he departs Norway in January, Diouf will have to say an emotional farewell to one special team-mate in particular. Mame's brother Mame Mbar, three years his junior, joined coach Kjell Jonevret's squad a few months ago. Who knows: if he follows the same development track as his elder brother, the pair could be reunited at the same club again one day.