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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Duff is worlds apart
By Stuart Roach

Damien Duff
Damien Duff has joined Chelsea in a 17m deal
Would the real Damien Duff please stand up?

The contrast between Chelsea's frivolous spending and Duff's modest lifestyle could not be further apart.

But if anyone can remain unfazed by Chelsea's millionaire's playground already in place and now undergoing a cosmopolitan facelift funded by Roman Abramovich's millions, then it is Duff.

In fact, for a player who displays such electric pace on the pitch, Chelsea's new 17m man is almost sloth-like away from football.

And if London life all gets too hectic for the midfielder, he is likely to hide away from it all simply by taking to his bed.

Duffer, as he is known to his team-mates, was famous for his Rip van Winkle-rivalling sleeps before he was famous for his football.

For most, foreign trips with the Republic of Ireland's underage squads represented an irresistible opportunity to create mischief in a holiday atmosphere.

Chelsea new boy Damien Duff
Duff enjoys a modest lifestyle
1979: Born March 2 in Ballyboden, Republic of Ireland
1996: Signs professional forms with Blackburn three days after his 17th birthday
1997: Makes debut for Rovers in 4-2 defeat against Leicester
1997: Scores winner as Republic of Ireland claim third place at the World Youth Cup in Malaysia.
2001: Part of the Republic squad which books a place in the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea with a 1-0 win over Holland.
2001-02: A revelation on Rovers' return to the elite, scoring 10 as Rovers finish 10th and win the Worthington Cup. Boosts his market value with some outstanding World Cup displays.
2003: Joins Chelsea in 17m move, signing a four-year deal worth 70,000-a-week.
But while his team-mates were out on the town after a game, Duffer would invariably be back at the hotel snoozing.

'Adhesive Mattress Syndrome', as then-youth coach and now senior boss Brian Kerr christened it.

His country cottage in the Ribble Valley is equally sleepy and represents the kind of lifestyle Duff was reluctant to give up.

"It's near lots of old people. Mostly I just sleep," he once said, suggesting he will be more at home mingling with the Chelsea Pensioners than the Stamford Bridge glamour boys.

A man of simple tastes, Duff's contentment was underlined by his signing of a contract extension at Ewood Park last summer.

The deal, which included the now infamous 17m sell-on clause, was put in place more to protect the club than the player.

But it did elevate Duff to a 40,000-per-week salary designed to help him resist the advances of such wealthy suitors as Manchester United and Liverpool.

The truth is that Duff wasn't really interested in a lucrative move away - or any move away - and for that reason Rovers boss Graeme Souness was genuinely hopeful of keeping hold of him amid Chelsea's frenzied interest.

But Abramovich and Chelsea are clearly capable of breaking down the least materialistic player and Duff eventually succumbed.

His first piece of personal business might be to put in an offer on Graeme Le Saux's now vacant Buckinghamshire pad, far from the madding crowd of the Kings Road but close to Chelsea's training ground.

But once Duffer wakes up and makes his way on to the pitch, the wisdom of his step up - and of Chelsea's investment - will become clear.

A naturally-fit player whose decision to go on a diet simply involved "cutting out the Happy Meals", Duff's energy-saving lifestyle is transformed electrically into pace on the pitch.

A star of the Republic's World Youth Cup teams, despite being two years younger than most of his team-mates, Duff scored the winning goal in the bronze medal games in Malaysia in 1997.

BRITAIN'S BIGGEST TRANSFERS
29.1m: Rio Ferdinand, Leeds to Man Utd, 2002
28.1m Juan Veron, Lazio to Man Utd, 2001
23.5m Nicolas Anelka, Arsenal to Real Madrid, 2001
21.6m Marc Overmars, Arsenal to Barcelona, 2000
19m Ruud van Nistelrooy, PSV to Man Utd, 2001
18m Rio Ferdinand, West Ham to Leeds, 2000
17m Damien Duff, Blackburn to Chelsea, 2003
He broke into Blackburn's first team following Jason Wilcox's departure in 2001, but it was the following season, culminating in the World Cup finals in Korea and Japan, during which Duff truly came to prominence.

Yet for those who have seen the young star grow up, his elevation to super stardom is no surprise.

Former Rovers team-mate Craig Hignett, who played alongside Juninho and Paul Gascoigne at Middlesbrough, rates Duff as the best he has ever seen.

He said: "I have played with some brilliant players during my career, but I have never seen a talent like Damien Duff. Gazza was special and Juninho was a little box of tricks, but neither had the explosive skills that Damien possesses."

Kerr, who coached Duff through his junior international days and now presides over the senior team, had his own way of nurturing the talent.

"I would give a team talk then say to Damien, 'you heard that but now forget it - just go and cause them trouble'."

Chelsea will know that on the pitch is the only place Duff knows how to cause trouble.

Duff's only fear is that he will wake from one of his legendary sleeps and discover it was all a dream.





CHELSEA

BLACKBURN ROVERS


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