Samba grabs headlines

The 28-year-old defender joins Harry Redknapp’s Loftus Road revolution as QPR look to avoid relegation to the second tier of English football, writes Niall McGlone.

Few clubs caught the headlines more than QPR during the January transfer window and no other transfer grabbed the headlines more than the return of Christopher Samba to the English Premier League.

The 28-year-old joined Harry Redknapp’s Loftus Road revolution as QPR was trying to avoid relegation to the second tier of English football.

After just one season in Russia with Anzhi Makhachkala, the former Blackburn Rovers defender was tempted back to England with a big-money move, the only shock being that it was with struggling QPR.

The addition of Samba to the backline is seen as a vital step by Redknapp if QPR are to beat the odds and escape the drop.

Samba began his professional career in France where he played for Sedan Ardennes. He made 26 appearances for the club’s B team and just three appearances for the first team before moving to Germany to play for Hertha Berlin.

He was also capped by Congo at the age of just 20 but struggled to break into the Hertha first team and was largely used in the second team during his three years in Germany.

Still ambitious and frustrated with his lack of game time in Berlin, Samba sought a move elsewhere and was handed a trial by then Blackburn manager Mark Hughes. After impressing, he signed a three-and-a-half-year deal and moved for a reported GBP450,000 during the January transfer window in 2007.

He made 19 appearances in his debut season for Rovers and soon established himself as a regular starter during the following campaign.

Such was his importance to the team that he was appointed club captain for the 2010/11 season but was later stripped of the honour by new manager Steve Kean after he expressed his desire to leave Ewood Park.

He eventually signed a new four-and-a-half-year deal with the club in February 2011 but just a year later he was keen to leave again.

He released a statement which read: “In my five years at Blackburn Rovers I have always given 100 % in every game I have played. I have had several opportunities to leave but I have always stayed. I have decided now is the right time for me to pursue a new challenge and I have asked the club to respect my decision and allow me to leave. I thank the fans for their support and I hope they feel I have served them and their club well.”

He handed in a transfer request and was the subject of a bid from QPR, which was rejected by the Blackburn board.

Samba did eventually leave Blackburn and signed for mega-rich Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala for a reported fee of GBP12.3 million on a four-year deal but he was to last just one quarter of that.

His time in the country is most remembered for an unsavoury racist incident in which a banana was thrown at Samba by a Lokomotiv Moscow fan at the end of a match.

He spoke out after the game, saying: “I am very sad that this happened in front of children who were sitting in the same stand. It is a really bad example for them.”

The incident was investigated by the Russian Football Union and the thrower was eventually identified.

Samba again spoke out about the racism he suffered, saying: “I feel extremely passionately about racism in football and will never let the small community of racists break me. I’m a strong character and will keep fighting for my team. I am thoroughly enjoying my time in Russia and although I was, of course, angry at the racism incident, along with the rest of the football world, racist issues here are no different to what I have experienced in other countries.”

After another alleged racism incident in a game against Zenit St. Petersburg, Samba accused the fans responsible of “living in another century”.

Although his time in Russia was littered with problems off the pitch, his performances on the pitch were praised by Anzhi manager Guus Hiddink.

“He was one of the reasons we conceded so few goals this season. He was the big chief in our defence,” said the Dutchman. “For us, he was also very dangerous in attack, from set-piece situations.”

Recently, QPR triggered Samba’s release clause and he put pen to paper in London on a GBP100,000-a-week contract.

QPR boss Redknapp hailed the deal as “an unbelievable signing” and described his new acquisition as “great in the air, quick, a leader, strong, fantastic in both boxes, hard as nails. He’s a proper centre-half.”

Eyebrows were raised at the size of the deal due to QPR’s position at the foot of the table but if Samba keeps them in the EPL, it will prove money well spent.

Samba has a German wife and two children. He has been known to drive a BMW X6.

FACTFILE Name: Christopher Samba Position: Defender Club: QPR DOB: 28/03/1984 International caps: 26 International goals: 0

Moment to remember: Winning a penalty and beating Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Moment to forget: Being stripped of the captaincy after expressing a desire to leave Blackburn Rovers.

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