We already know more than any sane person needs to know about Wayne Rooney, probably more than the man himself. Tap him into Google and there are five million links. If you want something more traditional, there are more than a dozen books written by, or about him. Some may even be worth reading.
But what about the man who could be marking him at Old Trafford tomorrow, Johan Djourou? What do we know about him? As a footballer, he is quick, strong in the tackle and in the air, decent on the ball. A little naive at times, but full of potential. Though born in the Ivory Coast, he is a Swiss international who played in the World Cup. If you are something of an anorak, you may even know his first senior start came at 17 in a 3-1 victory against Everton in the Carling Cup in 2004, a match in which the attention was stolen by Quincy Owusu-Abeyie.
Digging on the internet (188,000 results, most of them repetitive news snippets) produces little more. You learn he is a "1961b defenseman" (SI.com), that he has a Swiss mother and Ivorian father, that he moved to Switzerland at 17 months, went to a residential training centre set up by the Swiss football association at 13 years, and moved to London at 15.
And that is about it. The only way to flesh out the webfects was to ask the man himself. So yesterday lunchtime, at Arsenal's serene London Colney training ground, I sat down with Djourou to hear his life story.
"It is," he confessed, "a bit complicated." His father Joachim, is a laboratory pharmacist who was working in Geneva when he met Daniele, a nurse. They met, they married. But then they parted and Joachim went back to the Ivory Coast, met Angeline, and had a son, Johan. Joachim then returned to Switzerland, and to Daniele, who adopted Johan, formally and emotionally, as her own. Which is how this son of Africa came to represent Switzerland in the World Cup.
"There was talk, last year, of my playing for Ivory Coast but I always knew I would play for Switzerland," said Djourou. "I grew up there. I played for the national teams when I was younger. I've always felt both [nationalities]. My dad is from the Ivory Coast, my mum raised me, helped me to grow up. So I feel Swiss as well."
Geneva is one of the more culturally diverse cities in Switzerland and Djourou said he had no problems fitting in as a youngster. His sporting prowess, obvious from an early age, may have helped. "My dad says even when I was a baby I would grab balls in stores and play football in the store." At the age of 13, he was fast-tracked by the Swiss FA, who took him to Payerne, its equivalent of the FA National School at Lilleshall which produced several internationals, including Nick Barmby, Sol Campbell and Andy Cole, before being disbanded.
"It was great experience," he said. "I learnt a lot. It was just a few of us, working on technique and tactics." It also fostered an independence that would later prove valuable. "Payerne is not that far from Geneva but I would have to get the train at six in the morning, leave my mum for a week, then get back at the weekend. But I had a great host family looking after me in Payerne." Djourou was soon putting the skills he learned at Payerne to use and at 15 was playing, as a midfielder, for Etoile Carouge in the Swiss equivalent of League One.
Then one day, in an indication of just how thorough the modern football club's scouting system is, his coach said to him "there were scouts here from Arsenal". Djourou said: "I didn't really believe it, at 14,15 you think it is a joke." It was not and Djourou soon had to decide whether to leave the family again [he has two sisters and abrother], this time for London.
"It was hard leaving my family behind, and all my friends, but when you want to do something in life you have to make choices, sometimes you have to make …