Bamba Dieng has emerged as a serious alternative to Arkadiusz Milik and the other big names in Marseille's attack, and he was again a key figure as the team beat RC Strasbourg Alsace on Sunday, scoring a sumptuous goal to help OM move into second place behind arch-rivals PSG.
Bamba Dieng scored twice against AS Monaco in his surprise start to the league season, was decisive against Stade Rennais in September and in the 2-0 win against RC Strasbourg Alsace on Sunday, he brought out the big guns and turned the match in Marseille's favour. These performances have propelled him into the big time, following his arrival in Marseille in the summer of 2020 as part of a partnership with the Diambars Institute in Dakar, Senegal.
Seizing his chance
Dieng was given his first league start by interim boss Nasser Larguet just before the arrival of Jorge Sampaoli, but had already scored in the Coupe de France, against Auxerre last season. After that breakthrough, he stayed with the senior squad, first for a few games and then for a few starts, especially when Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik was out injured.
"I was given my chance and I took it," he smiled after scoring his first goal at the Orange Vélodrome in September.
The coaching staff have shown their faith in him to the point that he is now ahead of other promising players such as Konrad De la Fuente and Luis Henrique in the attacking pecking hierarchy.
"We consider him a very important player," explained Jorge Desio, Sampaoli's assistant. "He has a lot of qualities; he's strong, fast and has a good head on him."
When asked about his qualities, Dieng described himself as a true centre-forward, even though he has mostly played wide on the left. He also confirmed his reputation as one of the squad's best strikers of the ball.
Despite all his promise, Dieng knows he still has work to do and mom to improve, especially working alongside the likes of Milik.
"I have to score more, and work a lot on my game in front of goal so I can finish more clinically. It's good to be playing with a great player like Milik," said the in-form youngster. "He is nice, he talks to me, he helps me. I like him, I learn a lot from his qualities."
By scoring his fourth goal of the season on Sunday - a few days after signing a new contract with OM - the striker is gaining credit both in Marseille and in Senegal, with whom he has already earned four caps. He shares the shirt of his homeland with Marseille teammate Pape Gueye, a connection that has been invaluable for the 21-year-old.
"Pape is a brother to me, he has helped me a lot. It's good that he joins us in the den," said the young gun, referring to the Senegal national team's nickname the Lions of Teranga. "I am recognised in Senegal now. People ask me for photos, and I am very proud to represent my club and my country. Especially in Senegal there are many OM supporters. Being Senegalese and playing for OM makes me happy!"
Dieng next chance to shine in Sampaoli's side could come in Sunday's Round of 64 Coupe de France clash at home to fifth-division amateurs ES Cannet-Rocheville, before OM play host to Reims in Round 19 - the final round of Ligue 1 Uber Eats matches for 2021 - in Wednesday, 22 December.