Defensive midfielder who is widely known for his prolific career playing for Real Madrid between 2006 and 2011. He became a staple of the two-defensive midfielder system run during those years by coach Fabio Capello, before a knee injury slowed his progress in 2009.
He began his professional playing career in 1998 with the Greek club OFI Crete. He subsequently played for Vitesse Arnhem between 1999 and 2002 before joining the French Ligue 1 club Lyon.
Between 2002 and 2006, he started as a defensive midfielder for Lyon, and won four Ligue 1 titles. He was central to the team's successes.
He is of Malian descent, and is a active Muslim.
He frequently played alongside Michael Essien at midfield during his successful Lyon years.