Aruna Dindane: The Purple Elephant who stamped his mark on Belgian football

Scoring 65 goals in 183 games as a striker is something most strikers would snap your hand off for. Add in 36 assists, and you end up with former Anderlecht striker Aruna Dindane. Many fans of English football will remember Dindane for being part of the doomed Portsmouth side of 2009/2010, where the striker scored eight Premier League goals in 19 games.

Yet, before he ended up on the south coast of England, Dindane had been lighting it up in Belgium and then France. The Ivorian began his career in 1994 with JMG Abidjan before moving to the biggest club in the Cote d’Ivoire, ASEC Mimosas. Name nearly any Ivorian footballer and chances are they will have come through ASEC at some point. Both Toure brothers, Gervinho, Emanuel Eboue and Boubacar Barry all came through the ASEC academy.

Dindane was part of the club that shocked African football in 1999. Alongside Kolo Toure, Didier Zokora and others, a team of ‘children’ as they were described beat the mighty Esperance Sportive de Tunis in the CAF Super Cup. Following this success, Anderlecht parted with over €1m to bring the striker in. After a season to acclimatise to Belgian football, in which he scored six goals as Anderlecht won the league, the 2001/2002 season was the breakthrough for Dindane. He hit double figures in the league, but Anderlecht were unable to defend their trophy.

During the 2002/20223 season he grabbed 10 goals in all competitions, yet in 2003/2004 he scored 14 league goals in 25 games, alongside 14 assists as Anderlecht regained their crown. This gave him 20 goals that season, a number he came close to repeating in 2004/2005. In what proved to be his final season at the club, he once again scored 14 league goals, as well as two in the cup and two in Champions League qualification.

After 65 goals in just five seasons at Anderlecht, Dindane moved to France and joined Lens for €3m. Prior to the move, the forward had refused to play for Anderlecht as he looked to force a move away in the summer of 2004. Anderlecht wanted to keep him till at least January, which they were. Eventually he did move, but not until the summer of 2005.

In France, the striker scored 39 goals in 132 games, with 15 assists. Despite his goals, Lens were unable to remain in Ligue 1 and were relegated during the 2007/2008 season. Dindane only spent one season in Ligue 2, only managing to play 12 games. Portsmouth came calling, and the striker then went on loan to Pompey. Blackburn had been interested, with Sam Allardyce having claimed that the striker had turned up at Ewood Park for talks with the club in 2010.

After just one year with Portsmouth, and following their relegation, Dindane moved once again, this time to the Middle-East to join Qatari side Lekhwiya. The Ivorian then went on to play for another three Qatari clubs before returning to England to join Crystal Palace.

Unfortunately, the striker was never able to rediscover his form during his early career, as he did not manage a single appearance for the Crystal Palace first team. Dindane retired from football in 2014 as injuries began to catch up with him.

Dindane was also part of the golden generation of Ivorian football, alongside the likes of Didier Drogba. The striker scored twice at the World Cup, with both goals coming in 2006 as the Elephants beat Serbia 3-2. Unfortunately, like Drogba he never managed to win the African Cup of Nations. In a cruel irony, once Dindane and Drogba had retired, the Elephants finally won the cup thanks to Barry’s penalty heroics.

Regardless of his late career performances, Dindane will certainly be remembered in Belgium as one of the leagues top players who played the best football of his career at Anderlecht.

GBeNeFN | Ben Jackson

More European Football News