The worst Premier League signing ever is indeed Ali Dia, a Senegalese footballer who arrived in Southampton in 1996.
The biggest fraud in the history of football was able to trick the leaders of the club and manager Graeme Souness and convince them that he is the cousin of legendary George Weah, who won the Golden Ball and was named FIFA World Player of the Year.
The story goes that Souness received a phone call from a man purporting to be George Weah with a tip-off about a young Senegalese footballer called Ali Dia.
Weah was playing in Serie A with AC Milan at the time, but the phone call apparently convinced Souness that Dia had played alongside Weah at PSG, and had indeed played 13 times for Senegal.
“He’s played with George Weah at Paris St Germain and he’s been playing in the second division in Germany,” Souness explained in a television interview before Dia’s debut.
“We said come down and train with us for a week or so and see what’s what.”
Dia was brought on as a substitute at the Dell before being hauled off just 53 minutes later after failing to impress, despite managing to register one shot on target.
Saints legend Matt le Tissier recounts the bizarre series of events that saw Dia make his Premier League debut against Leeds.
“This guy turned up on the recommendation from George Weah. Apparently he was the cousin of George Weah and he said “this guy’s a pretty good footballer, give him a try”.
“He came down on the Friday morning and he trained with us and he played in the five-a-side. To be honest he wasn’t very good. Triallists come and go and I thought this was going to be the same thing and we wouldn’t see him again.
“We turn up the next day to play against Leeds and he’s named on the subs bench, which I thought was a bit strange.
“After about twenty minutes I get a calf strain and it’s me that comes off for Ali Dia.
“It was unbelievable. He ran round the pitch like Bambi on ice, he was so embarrassing to watch Graeme Souness actually had to take him off again after half time: he was that bad. It was a great wind up, I bet he was just chuffed to get out on the pitch.”
His short-lived cameo has seen his debut go down as one of the worst in sporting history, but now the cult footballer has re-emerged to explain his side of the story.
“It has been hurtful for me. They have portrayed me as a liar and that is bull,” Dia told Bleacher Report.
Dia is now a businessman in London and insists he never claimed to be George Weah’s cousin in order to gain a trial.
Two decades on from his short-lived Premier League career Dia insists he was a footballer of some repute who warranted the opportunity to prove himself at an English club.
“I did play for Paris Saint-Germain, in the second tier, in 1986-88. And I helped win the Paris Cup, in either 1986 or 1987.”
After leaving Southampton Dia had a short spell at north East non-league club Gateshead before moving into business.
Dia also lied about having 13 appearances for the Senegal national team, though the club believed everything and happily gave him a one-month contract which was terminated after only 14 days.