Football Insights - Florent Malouda
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Football Insights - Florent Malouda

All eyes will be on Wembley this Sunday as Chelsea and Liverpool battle it out for the League Cup Final. With four consecutive wins, Manchester City have dominated the League Cup in recent times, however despite being 10-years since they last tasted success, Liverpool remain the most successful club in the competition. Chelsea, losing finalists in 2019, will be looking to add to their FIFA Club World Cup already secured this season and Genting Casino have secured the exclusive comments of former Chelsea star Florent Malouda ahead of their midweek Champions League clash and the Wembley showpiece. Check out Florent's interview below.


Champions League

Roberto Di Matteo arrived with the side having lost 3-1 to Napoli in the first leg of the round of 16. At that moment is it fair to say you did not think about winning the Champions League or did you still think about it ?

I remember that game really well. Even though we lost 3-1, there was one opportunity that Ashley Cole stopped on the goal line and afterwards, all of the players said that was the save that could enable us to qualify in the second leg. 

It’s kind of strange, we lost 3-1 but we were confident that we would be able to turn things around at Stamford Bridge, just because we didn’t lose 4-1. (Laughs) That’s how we were as a team. We knew with the characters and the players that we had in the squad, we could do something, but we also realised that for this team, it could be the last opportunity to win the Champions League. We had nothing to lose. 

So when we saw Ashley make that clearance we thought, OK, we can do it. We were not thinking about getting to the final or winning it at that stage, just qualifying. We had to go through, it didn’t matter which team we faced in the next round, that was our mentality at the time. 

You mentioned that as group, some of you thought that this could be the last chance to win the Champions League. After you defeated Napoli and were getting closer to the final, what was the atmosphere like in the changing room?

After the first leg against Napoli, every match was a final for us. After Napoli, we played Benfica and then Barcelona in the semi-final. We viewed each game like this and, obviously, there was a lot of pressure, because in the league we were not competing to win it. 

There was special preparation for the Champions League nights and we were ready. It was like the whole club had this huge objective and the players were aware that winning the Champions League could save our season. 

As a team, we faced a lot of criticisms in 2011/12 and it was not easy for us. Of course, everyone remembers the Champions League victory but it was very difficult. Each game was an opportunity to prove people wrong, to showcase our quality and desire. 

After a big result in the Champions League, like Napoli, is it a tournament where the momentum starts to build. Did you feel that as a player and did it give you extra confidence? 

We felt that the whole club was behind us. We felt that responsibility before each game. We wanted to go out and win, not just for us, but for everyone else at the club. In previous years, Chelsea had got close to winning it, but perhaps luck and the decisions were not on our side – we had nothing to lose. 

It didn’t matter who was playing. We were on duty for everyone at the club, we had to win. We were not thinking about anything else. That was our mindset. We would say, “let’s not try to please people, we know who we are and who we are not. We were not Barcelona, we were not Bayern Munich, we were Chelsea, let’s play in our style. Let’s be ourselves and win this way.”

When you win the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history, how did you celebrate? 

For me, it was like time stopped. There wasn’t much happening in the changing room – everything happened on the pitch. You don’t want to leave the pitch after winning it, you want to stay on the pitch forever. 

Everyone wants to get their hands on the trophy; taking pictures, touching it, any one-on-one time with the trophy! You kiss the trophy. You don’t want to go back to the dressing room. You want to celebrate on the pitch with the fans. Some players went and jumped on the goal, some players cut out a piece of the net. So many things will go through your mind. 

As a player, it is your time, it is your moment, you’ve just become a European champion. You just think about the moment and you look at your teammates and say, “it was worth the pain and the sacrifice, now you’re a champion of Europe and it has never been done before by this club. The players you saw with the trophy when you watched these games as a kid, now you’re one of them.”

This is a really special moment and one that bonds the group of players forever. The Chelsea fans would wave flags with ‘Pride of London’ on them and we were really, really proud to be the first London club to be able to bring the trophy home. 

That team will always be remembered as legends and rightly so. Do you all stay in touch? Is there a WhatsApp group?  

No WhatsApp group (laughs). Sometimes we see each other at club events, but the guys that are based in England, obviously they see each other a little bit more often. We follow each other on social media and that is where we keep up to date. 

Sometimes when we go back to the club we have opportunities to share moments together and we are close, but we are all based around the world; some of the guys are in Brazil, some are in Africa. We all went our separate ways. 

It is really nice to see Frank Lampard in management and Ashley Cole with him. It is great to see Petr Cech, Claude Makelele and John Terry at the club. It is good that these guys are in the game because football provided all us with a lot of emotions. When I saw Frank Lampard in the dugout for the first time, it was kind of strange, but he is a great inspiration for us. 

Let’s talk about the gamer tomorrow night against Lille. Who are the players that Chelsea need to be wary of? 

I think his fitness is in doubt, but Renato Sanches is the talent in this team. He brings the energy to the team. Then you have some experienced players like Burak Yilmaz, who is a player that knows the Champions League and is always dangerous. 

They have a young forward called Jonathan David who has scored three goals in the tournament so far, and they just signed Hatem Ben Arfa, someone that I played with in Lyon. If he comes in, he can always be dangerous. I’m not sure if he is in shape yet, but these are the players that Chelsea need to be careful of because they can change a game at any time.

How do you think the game is going to go on Tuesday night? 

I wish that Chelsea win the match. On Champions League nights, especially at home, the most important thing in the first leg is not to concede goals and to build your confidence for the second leg. Of course, the best result would be 2-0, 3-0, but the most important thing for confidence is not to concede. 

You are setting yourself up for the second leg, and the second leg is away. When your experienced in this competition, you try not to jeopardise your chances in the second leg. 

Are there any teams in the Champions League that you would like Chelsea to avoid playing? 

As usual, it would be Liverpool, Man City – the English teams are always dangerous. Then you have PSG or Madrid. Especially Paris. They are always close, they nearly got to their first final last season and are getting closer each year. 

They brought in Messi to win this competition. PSG are so willing to win the Champions League, they could be a danger if they find the right attacking balance. And this could happen very fast because when their attacking players find confidence, you’re talking about serious firepower.  

On His Career

Florent, you were part of some really successful teams – looking back at your career, who do you think was the best player you played alongside?

Without any doubt it was Zinedine Zidane with the French national team. He was more than a legend and I was really fortunate to play with him. He was a genius of the game. I never thought I would actually have the opportunity to play with him because he retired when I was playing in the national team, but he came back to help us qualify for the World Cup in 2006 and everybody knows what happened next. It was great to share the pitch with him.

I imagine that he was one of your heroes. How did it feel when you realised that you were going to get to play with him?

It was a massive moment for the entire country. He came back and he brought Claude Makélélé and Lillian Thuram with him (these players came out of retirement to help France qualify for the World cup in 2006). 

He was the guy who gave France the World Cup in 1998 and a few years earlier, when I was in the academy in France, I was watching him lifting the trophy. I never thought I’d share a dressing room with him. 

When he walked through the door, everything around the team changed. Security, media, everything. I started to understand why he was referred to as a Galactico at Real Madrid because in a football sense, he was from a different level.

You had brilliant periods in your career where you won so many trophies, both at Lyon, and then at Chelsea. On a similar note, whilst you were at Lyon – because that Lyon team was sensational, who did you really enjoy playing with in that side?

Juninho Pernambucano was a really important player for Lyon. He really changed the club and transformed it, through what he did on the pitch and also his ambition. If I had to pick one, it would be him, but I must also mention Michael Essien. 

Both of these players were great and were among the best in France at the time. It is wonderful looking back. I now realise how lucky we were to, not only play together, but to evolve as men together. We were successful and we were happy. They were happy times.

When you were at Chelsea, I know that you played with Michael again, Essien, while you were there, but who did you love to play with at Chelsea the most?

The connection I developed on the left side with Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole was special. Then the chemistry with Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, providing them with goal scoring opportunities was a pleasure. 

It’s difficult to choose because when we were playing together, there was a core in the team. We were a unit, so that’s why I mentioned these players because they were on my side and there we connected.

For most of your career you played wide left, when Carlo Ancelotti came in, you played more of a 10 role, but predominantly, most people recognised you as a left winger. In terms of that connection, you spoke briefly about Ashley Cole there, why do you think you guys worked so well as a pairing on that left side?

We understood each other’s game. We were useful to each other because our levels were so high. When I think about Ashley Cole, the quality of his runs caused so many problems to our opposition. He created so many doubts in the opponents mind.

Then when you have a player with the quality of Frank, who can see any run, I knew quickly that I had to evolve my game and adjust to life in the Premier League after coming from France.

When I understood the style of play, when I understood how much freedom I would have, everything started to click. Relationships on the pitch are so important and movement can make a big difference, with and without the ball. I was evolving my game at a higher level because I was playing with really intelligent players. 

When I played under Carlo Ancelotti in a slightly different role (in the double winning season of 09/10), it was really important to convert in terms of goals scored, assists and chances created. It was a positive evolution of my game.

You’ve been managed by some legends – did you have a manager who you felt could get the best out of you as a player, and if so, how did they do that?

If I think about my career when I was younger, when Gerard Houllier arrived at Lyon he was very thorough with analysis and the way he read the game – he really helped me to unleash my potential, and I would say he was as important for my development as a player as Carlo Ancelotti was at Chelsea. 

When Carlo arrived, I had adjusted to the Premier League and was ready to work hard and sacrifice myself for the team – I was ready to do the dirty work.

In the final third of the pitch, I needed to improve and start producing goals and assists, and that’s what I did. Carlo trusted me and gave me the responsibility and the freedom to really help the team win (Florent’s most prolific season at Chelsea came in 2009/10, with 12 goals and 10 assists in 33 Premier League appearances). It was a new experience and role for me. I will forever be grateful to Carlo, because he really trusted me and I rewarded that trust with performances on the pitch,

You’ve got such a strong association with Lyon and Chelsea, and they were both really golden periods in your career in terms of the trophies that you managed to lift at both clubs. Do you still keep an eye on their results now?

Yeah. I was fortunate enough to be at the Champions League final last year when Chelsea beat Manchester City and I was there a few weeks ago when Chelsea won the Club World Cup. I closely follow the club because of the emotional connection I have with it and because of the memories created.

Before you moved to Chelsea, Liverpool put an offer in for you, is that right?

That’s right. Gerard Houllier was my coach. Whenever I was training, I would always ask him questions about the Premier League and whether or not I play there. He said you have to go and experience the Premier League at least once in your career and then he grabbed his phone and called Liverpool – he literally made the deal for me. 

Liverpool were the first team to make an offer. Rafa was the coach and he really pushed for me to go to Liverpool

What a sliding doors moment. You could have easily gone to Liverpool rather than Chelsea, that could have happened?


When you look back at all those trophies you won, you probably made the right decision going to Chelsea, no?

When Chelsea came in for me, I felt so much pride. I knew a lot of the players that were already there, and of course we would speak regularly on the phone, which helped my decision, so I knew Chelsea were the club that I really wanted to join. 

I wanted to be part of the squad. Didier Drogba moved, then Michael Essien, two guys I played with in France, so it was like I already knew everything about Chelsea. Makélélé was there, Gallas played there. One year before I signed, I used to come to Chelsea to watch my friends and I was already connected to the team. I knew I wanted to play for Chelsea.

You and Didier Drogba played together before, before you moved from Lyon right, so you were good friends off the pitch?

Yeah, we played for Guingamp in the French league. We had an opportunity to play together at Guingamp when we were struggling, that was the beginning of the super Didi that everyone knows. 

As soon as he got into the starting 11 he never stopped progressing. It was amazing. I think it helped Jose Mourinho sign me because Didier wanted us re-establish that connection again, but at a higher level at Chelsea.

Did you ever think when you were playing together, when you were younger guys, that you would win the games biggest prizes together?

Not really. It was one step at a time. When I look back, we were always talking about Champions League nights on a Tuesday and Wednesday, watching the matches at the academy. You don’t picture yourself on the pitch; you’re just watching the games like you go to the movies. 

At this stage, all we wanted to do was become professionals. Winning the Champions League was not our ambition. 

When we started to make our way as professionals, of course we dreamed of winning it. We wanted to play at the highest level. When you actually do it, you remember where you started from and you realise everything that you had to sacrifice to make that happen. 

To think about winning something like that with one of your friends, who you grew up with in the lower leagues of France, it must have been incredible?

Yeah. It was great. I even think about when I played with Michael Essien at Lyon when we were younger. Our ambition was to go as far as possible in the competition, not even to win it. To then win it together, it was really unbelievable. 

When you win it once, you want to win it again. You want the moment to last forever, but you realise that the next year another club will try to be better than you and you have to start all over again.

If you were to compare the side that you played in against the current side, which team do you think is the better team?

I always say, even though our time was great, I think this team are much better than we were.

Oh really?

I think the overall level of football has increased and the competition is much higher – the speed, the physical intensity – when you look at what Chelsea has achieved since 2012 in terms of trophies, thinking about the Europa League, the Champions League, the Super Cup, the Club World Cup, for the first time in the club’s history, what there is phenomenal. 

Records are there to be beaten. I admire this team, they are young. When we won the Champions League we were at the end of our playing cycle, they are just starting, so that’s why for me, they are much better than we were.

Do you think they could retain it – the Champions League?

They’re performing but they can still improve. There is always a lot of big competition from other clubs to win it, but I think Chelsea, with the schedule they have, with the right focus they can make it.

The Chelsea team that you played in Florent, especially that double winning team, that was a season where you scored a lot of goals, and you set up a number of assists. In the overall charts you were third behind Didier and Frank Lampard, good company to be in obviously, do you think that this Chelsea team has the same level of firepower, because one of the criticisms that they faced is that lack of goals?

No. I think they potentially have the firepower. When you look at the squad with Lukaku, Werner, Havertz, Ziyech, if each of those players can score 15 goals, then potentially, but at the moment it’s missing. That is where this team can improve, and I think they know it, but it’s a matter of confidence. 

The system is good, the team is well organised. When you look last year, towards the business end of the season, they stepped up and delivered. 

It’s frustrating when you’re a striker and you don’t reach 20 goals a season. When you look at Benzema, Mbappe, Mo Salah, it must be frustrating for some of the Chelsea players. But imagine when they switch on. That is what’s frightening with this team. They have a lot of room to improve, they are young. 

Confidence for the offensive players makes a huge difference. They have the firepower, but after you need character and you need to unleash your potential and express yourself within the managers system. I am confident they will turn things around.

OK, your old teammate Petr Cech, he’s currently in a director role at the club, John Terry is back in helping out some of the younger teams, and I saw Claude Makelele has also got a role behind the scenes at Chelsea. 

These are all guys that you played with and are all guys that won so many trophies. How important do you think it is for Chelsea to keep legends like that at the club, and what benefit does that bring to having them there?

It’s very important in terms of legacy and in terms of keeping the club DNA. The players you mentioned, they were part of the golden era of the club. 

I can also mention Paulo Ferreira and Gianfranco Zola, who have come back to the club. I think it’s positive. 

It reminds me of Bayern Munich where they bring back former players and give them the support to develop within management and administrative areas. I think for the players coming in and the young players from the academy, it’s very important because these are players they would have looked up to. It keeps the quality within the club.

This is something new. First players want to be part of the project, and then they’re included in the management team. I think it’s a top-quality sign from a football club. I think the fans also enjoy that these guys are giving something back to the club because they trust them. 

On Chelsea's Season

What do you think Chelsea should be looking to achieve this season, even with the Super Cup and the Club World Cup in the bag? 

Chelsea have already won the Super Cup and the Club World Cup, which is a great achievement, but it’s not enough for a club like Chelsea, especially when you have opportunities to play in even more finals. 

The will take everything one game at a time. This team is made to lift trophies and to be number one every competition. The Premier League is going to be almost impossible, but in any competition, you want to be number one. 

I am sure that if this team doesn’t win the League Cup final on Sunday, there will be a bitter taste at the end of the season, although they already won big trophies. That shows you how demanding playing for this club has become, so this is the reality of Chelsea players.

The pressure that comes with playing for a club like Chelsea, do you have to be a special type of player to handle that?

You have to be tough. You have to be mentally resilient because I don’t remember a season where Chelsea haven’t won a trophy. For some players, who could have been the star in other teams before they joined the club, Chelsea can be a frustrating place, because you’re not the main man. 

To be a successful player at Chelsea, you need to adjust your mentality and think only about the project, the club, the results. It’s not about individuals.

The wingbacks play a massive part in Tuchel’s team. Do you think that you could have played in this system as a left wingback?

I could have played there but I don’t think I could have done it for the entire season. It would suit Ashley Cole better because I liked to come in from the wing and to have the freedom to interchange with other attacking players. 

This wingback role is totally different. It requires different qualities and defensive focus because you have to cover a lot of pitch, not only offensively but defensively as well. 

Ashley Cole was already playing like this. Even though we were playing 4-3-3, he was playing like a left wingback but sometimes finishing in the box.

On Thomas Tuchel, he’s had a ridiculous start to his career in terms of what he’s achieved in just over a year, do you think he has the magic touch when it comes to winning finals?

Yeah. From what I saw, the results speak for themselves. When he arrived he accepted a tough challenge and he had a short contract – he knew he had to deliver right away. He came right after a legend like Lampard. 

These were not the best conditions to start your career as a Chelsea manager, but he really understood the project and he was excited and happy to be there, you can feel it. 

The magic touch comes from hard work and preparation. You can see in the finals the players know exactly what they have to do.

They have no doubt. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, they are ready to answer every tactical problem. Individually, the players step up. For example, in the Champions League final, N’Golo Kante was playing like he was three players. 

Antonio Rudiger, he was incredible. Edouard Mendy, he may not have the experience in the Champions League, but he played an unbelievable game. 

Thomas Tuchel deserves huge credit. I think mentally and psychologically he’s done very, very important work to develop the players for high intensity and high-pressure matches. 

There are some obvious parallels between Romelu and Didier. When Didier Drogba first joined Chelsea, he faced a few challenges. Drogba rose to those challenges, and went on to become an absolute legend at Chelsea, do you think that Romelu can follow a similar path?

Yeah. I think if I compare Didier and Romelu, I can’t remember one season where it was easy for Didier too, and he always came back on top at the end of the season. One of the main qualities that Drogba had was his resilience and I think Romelu has this quality as well. 

Romelu loves the club. He’s a Chelsea fan, he’s a player but he’s a Chelsea fan and he wants to be there. I think the fans must remember that he’s one of our own. Of course, it’s difficult for him because he was the star and the main striker at Inter Milan, every ball was aimed to him, so it’s a bit different.

Maybe people expect that from him but in terms of potential, I think Lukaku is more talented and gifted than Didier. When you look at him when he was 18, he had already scored 50 goals in the league and he’s the leader of the Belgium national team. 

Lukaku is exactly the kind of player that we wish to have after Drogba. He is the perfect player to follow him, to follow Diego Costa. Chelsea need him. Chelsea didn’t have a player like him in the team since Costa. 

I expect Lukaku to deliver and come good like Didier always did for the reaminder of the season. The club won the Club World Cup last week. Who scored in the final? Romelu. How many chances did he have? Not many. He scored in the final, which is why Chelsea signed a player like him for a record amount of money, and he is starting to pay that back. 

Of course, people will always speak about how he didn’t touch many balls and everything, but for him the most important thing is to be resilient and to focus on the opportunities he will have to prove himself. Didier was the same. 

When we won the Champions League, people have to look at the numbers, he did not play in many games. For Didier, that was a really difficult season, but every time, he showed up. I think any striker must also feel the confidence of the fans and the staff. 

That is what Romelu is missing. He wants to feel the love of the fans, that they want him to succeed. Strikers can be very sensitive, but that is because they have the most important role in the team: scoring goals. 

He is putting a lot of pressure on himself. For me, he belongs to Chelsea and we have to be patient. As I say, he will deliver, and he has delivered in an important final, with the club winning it’s first Club World Cup. Sometimes we’re so demanding. 

Maybe we want him to score 10 or 20 goals, but he scored a very, very important one on the big occasion. He was not that busy but he was there. It was a frustrating night for him, but he is working hard for the team.

I’ve been in teams before where strikers were not touching the ball and they drop deeper and try to get on the ball and people will criticise and say, ‘why is he not staying in the box?,’ I think he’s patient. It’s frustrating for him because he wants to score two or three goals per game. He needs to trust the process and I think we as Chelsea fans need to support Romelu, or any player who plays for our club.

You mentioned there Flo, how important it was as a player to feel the love of the fans – can you explain that a little bit more, as a player yourself?

As a player, you have your own confidence that you develop through the way you train – mastering your craft – but also, in the stadium there is a special energy and you want to feel the love of the fans, especially for offensive players. 

Of course, the fans want performances. They want the players to give everything. They want to win. This creates an atmosphere for the players. As I mentioned, offensive players scoring goals helps because you feel like the more you score the more people love you. 

I think that’s quite difficult for the offensive players at the moment because the club is winning trophies but the strikers are not scoring enough, so we want more, which is a good sign. 

But let’s not kill ourselves because we are too demanding. If we compare ourselves to other clubs, we are in a good position. We have top, top players, and many of the other teams wish they had our strike force. When confidence is in doubt, the love of your own fans can make all the difference.

On The League Cup Final

Let’s talk about the League Cup final. A big game on Sunday, looking ahead, that was the one trophy that alluded you while you were at the club, obviously you played a part in getting Chelsea to the final in 2008, was it clear during your time that priorities laid elsewhere, or were you disappointed that you couldn’t manage to add that one to your trophy cabinet?

No, I wouldn’t say that priorities laid elsewhere, I mean we tried to win the final and we failed. I remember this season really, when Jose left it was difficult, so this cup final was a way for us to really have a successful season. 

During Jose’s first era, the club won the League Cup. As players, we remembered that, but Tottenham were simply better than us and we didn’t have a great final.

This did not stop us to get into the Champions League final as well (Chelsea were defeated by Manchester United in 2008). The League Cup final can give your confidence a serious boost; it’s an opportunity to show you are all about winning trophies, showing up at finals, and showing that you are the best team.

And when you have opponents like Liverpool, it sends a message to not only the fans in England, but also in Europe. We are ready and we are ready to deliver. We are ready to conquer. This is the magnitude of the match. This cup final will be very, very important. 

Do you think that Thomas Tuchel can continue his outstanding record in finals and win this one on Sunday?

This is a huge challenge. I’m sure that Liverpool has other plans. From what I saw in last season, right after the Champions League final, Thomas Tuchel wants to win more and more – the more he wins he doesn’t lose focus. 

That’s how he prepares his team from the beginning. He brings the competition and he keeps everyone on their toes – it’s because he’s always thinking about the next achievement, and that’s what it’s all about. He’ll be thinking about his records and he will want to win.

Where do you think the game will be won and lost on Sunday against Liverpool? Whenever these teams face each other, the matches are always quite tight?

With these two teams, the game will always be tight. You know in terms of style, Chelsea like to put pressure on teams and Liverpool is very good on the counterattack. I think Chelsea has to be very, very careful. 

In every final won by Chelsea, they always put pressure on the opponent, it doesn’t matter who they face. In the Champions League final, Man City couldn’t play their game because of the high-pressure Chelsea put them under. 

That’s what Thomas Tuchel came for, Tuchel came for the final. To achieve that you need to be able to deliver physical intensity and you need your best players to be mentally ready to deliver the same kind of performance.

And if you were to predict a score for this one Florent, what would you say?

I would say 2-1, 2-1 for Chelsea.

On Lampard, Dembele, Rudiger And Kante

Looking around the Premier League, who are the attacking players that have impressed you the most this season?

In the first part of the season, Mo Salah was really, really impressive – world class. He destroyed every defence. He was unplayable. I really like Allan Saint-Maximan. He’s a really skilful player and is the kind of player you would pay to watch because he’s always creating something different and it’s really refreshing. 

I also like Riyad Mahrez. He is a left footer and he’s got a classy first touch – he creates in small areas – I like this type of player.

Let’s talk about your mate Frank Lampard, how pleased are you to see him back in the Premier League managing Everton?

I’m happy because it’s a great challenge for him. I think it’s the right chance for him to get back on track, but it’s not an easy challenge. I think he had time to reflect, and to prepare himself for it. And this can bring him back to the top in the Premier League.

Chelsea were linked with Dembele, the Barcelona winger, obviously, he’s a guy that Tuchel knows well from their time together at Dortmund, I imagine he’s a player that you know fairly well, do you think he would be a good signing potentially for Chelsea?

Yeah sure, he’s a world class player. He won the World Cup and Thomas Tuchel knows him, so I think he has the ability to bring the best out of him in the Premier League. 

I’m sure he can develop because he’s still young and I think Thomas Tuchel is the right man for that, not because of the time they spent together, but because of his knowledge when it comes to developing players.

 He’s not having a great time at Barcelona right now and I think for his career it would be the right move.  When you have a manager who won the Champions League, who won the Club World Cup, who wants to sign you that really helps your confidence. That tells the player that maybe I didn’t play so well, but I still know who I am and I can play at a top club.

Rudiger, obviously a very important player for Chelsea, he’s delivered some massive performances, his contract runs out in the summer, and he’s been linked with a few big teams. How important do you think it is for Chelsea to retain him?

I think it would be important for the club and for the squad because he’s been part of a successful era at the club. When I get back to when Thomas Tuchel arrived, Rudiger was not having a great time, and he turned things around. 

He’s a regular starter, he’s formed a solid base for the team, and if you want to keep being successful, he’s the type of player you want to keep. Not only for his individual talent, but for what he brings around him; the way he inspires other players. When you see him play, you see that other players rely on him. 

He brings that extra energy, that boost, and he’s really fearless. You can see on the pitch he’s fearless. This type of player will settle in at Chelsea, and that’s a big advantage. You definitely want to keep him at the club for as long as possible. Look at Thiago Silva, he has played at the top for so many years and he is still delivering at the top level at 37.

Who do you think is the most important player in this Chelsea side?

It is hard to pick one. I like to remind everyone that at top clubs, it’s an association of leaders who bring a team together. If I think about the difference he made last season and the impact he had on his fellow players, then it would be N’Golo Kante. Having N’Golo Kante in your team, that is like the having the equivalent of three players. 

With him, I would say that it doesn’t matter which system you play, he fixes everything. If Chelsea manage to keep him fit, he’s really the added value of Chelsea, and his attitude is inspiring for other players. 

When he plays, he’s everywhere and he’s giving everyone positive energy. I think that he was the main difference at the end of the season last year. I hope that he will be fit and that he can play in the same way for the rest of the season.




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