NO sooner had Amad Diallo become a hero for downing fierce rivals Liverpool in an FA Cup classic, he was unfortunately the villain of the piece in the referee’s eyes.

After his shot evaded Caoimhín Kelleher in the Reds goal, kissed the post and bounced over the line at an ecstatic Old Trafford, he whipped off his shirt to celebrate in front of a delighted Stretford End.

Understandably overcome by emotion, he had forgotten he was on a yellow card and gave John Brooks no option but to show the 21-year-old a second yellow.

But as he trudged down the tunnel, that didn’t matter one bit. The Ivorian had cemented his name in folklore, fans were singing it with gusto, and the £37million signing from Atalanta had finally landed.

“I think that is the best goal of my career,” a beaming Amad, who had been playing on an empty stomach while observing Ramadan, told ITV afterwards.

Sunderland fans may argue he scored better when he starred at the Stadium of Light during the 2022-23 season.

However, the joy on his face told the story of a man who has come a long way, and banished his past behind.

Leaving Ivory Coast behind

When he was 10, he left Abidjan behind with his brother and headed to Italy.

They settled in Parma, where a young Amad would star for youth club Boca Barco.

Following interest from a host of Serie A clubs, the youngster signed for Atalanta in 2015 and would develop into one of the most coveted players in European football.

But in 2020, local authorities launched an investigation into how Amad arrived in Parma.

It was handed over to the Italian football federation (FIGC), who later revealed Amad and his brother were at the centre of a child trafficking ring.

They alleged five adults smuggled Amad and his brother, Hamed Junior Traore, into Italy from their native Ivory Coast on a family visa.

The fake documents claimed that Amad and Hamed, who is now a Bournemouth player, would be cared for by their apparent parents, Mamadou Hamed Traore and Marina Edwige Carine Teher.

The FIGC alleged the two adults were not their parents, and even questioned if Hamed was Amad’s real brother.

A carefully worded statement from the FIGC said that Amad had: “Allowed, in order to be able to enter into his first professional contract with Atalanta, on 11 July 2018, the use of the false name Traore Diallo Amad.

“Other non-registered subjects (Traore Hamed Mamadou and Teher Marina Edwige Carine) carried out acts aimed at obtaining false or altered documents to circumvent the rules on entry into Italy and membership, as a non-EU citizen already residing in Italy.

“It was found that they pretended to be the parent of the footballer, using false certificates attesting the relationship of kinship.

“Finally, for himself, to obtain subsequent membership cards with companies affiliated with FIGC, continuing to use the false certifications that had allowed him to settle in Italy with fictitious parents.”

The case was concluded in 2021, after the FIGC accepted a plea bargain from the pair who were fined £42,000.

Moving on

To distance himself from the scandal, the United winger changed his name and has just ‘Amad’ on the back of his No16 shirt now.

Although his chances at the Theatre of Dreams have been limited, his progress hasn’t been hampered.

It was on loan with the Mackems where he soon became a fans’ favourite.

Before that an underwhelming loan at Rangers made many feel the gamble on an unproven talent who had appeared just four times for Atalanta before United spent big was money down the drain.

A spell in the Championship was just what he needed to kickstart his career on our shores.

Something seemingly clicked four months into his spell, when Amad scored three goals in five games in December, 2022.

His performances earned him the EFL Young Player of the Month award.

He single-handedly propelled Sunderland into the playoff picture and was a handful for the opposition.

Tony Mowbray got the best out of him, playing to his strengths and allowing him the licence to play a free role.

It was fitting that when Mowbray was sacked earlier this season, Diallo sent his well-wishes on social media.

In an Instagram story, alongside a photo of the manager, he wrote: “Thanks for having (helping) me a lot in my training. Good luck boss.”

By the end of the 2022-23 season, Amad had scored 14 goals and managed 4 assists for the club in all competitions.

The standout — a spectacular strike against Luton Town in the playoff semi-final — wasn’t enough to earn his side a spot at Wembley.

Fittingly, he has done that with United who will face Coventry City next.

And he might have just fired himself into Erik ten Hag’s first team plans now.

But first, he must serve that pesky suspension in their next Premier League fixture against Brentford. — Sun.


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