March 8, 2023
Florent Malouda Interview
Chelsea legend Florent Malouda joined the Blues in 2007 when he was signed by Jose Mourinho. He would go on to win the Premier League, the FA Cup and famously the Champions League in 2012 for the club. He was also an integral part of the Zinedine Zidane-inspired France team who made the World Cup final in 2006. Here, Malouda talks to DAZN Bet about Chelsea’s current form under Graham Potter, what it was like winning titles under Mourinho and the likes of Carlo Ancelotti plus his experiences playing with and against some of the greatest players football has ever known.
Q. What did you make of Chelsea’s 2-0 win and are you seeing signs they’re turning a corner?
The most important thing was that Chelsea got through to the quarter-final. The team pushed for the win from the start, but you can still feel moments where the confidence is not there yet. If Kai Havertz had not been given the opportunity to retake his penalty, we wouldn’t have the same perspective on this game. The positive is Chelsea qualified, but it’s still a difficult period and we need a couple more positive results to get stability and confidence. You can still see the shakiness sometimes, which is normal.
Q. What did you think of the decision to allow Havertz to retake his penalty?
For Chelsea, I’m sure the decision to retake the penalty was fine with them! But for Borussia Dortmund, it must be hard to take because moments like this can decide the outcome of a season. The Dortmund manager cannot control it, even though they played well. But due to one referee’s decision, you’re out of the competition, so it’s hard to take.
Q. Raheem Sterling and Kai Havertz have come under fire this season, but were you impressed with their performances against Dortmund?
I wasn’t impressed with Raheem Sterling and Kai Havertz’s performances because I think that’s how they should be delivering every game, that’s what everybody expects from them. But of course I’m happy to see them score, and I hope it helps their confidence. They have the quality to be the ones who gave Chelsea the win. It’s a positive sign and I hope we get many more after that.
Q. Graham Potter has been under pressure this season because, despite last night, the Blues sit in 10th. Does he need to be given time?
The managerial position at Chelsea has always been a hot seat. I don’t think you can talk about Graham Potter being given time, because Chelsea managers are not given time. It’s all about results.
I think there is a lot of expectation because he’s coming in after a brilliant spell under Thomas Tuchel and the results aren’t there yet. He has support, which is good for a manager. But I don’t know that he will feel confident that he’ll be Chelsea manager too far into the future. It’s always about the next result so even if the Dortmund game gives him some breathing space, there is still the threat that you can lose the job at any time, particularly if someone becomes available. For the moment, it’s good that he has the support because it sends a signal to the rest of the squad. But no one believes he will be given time if he has a bad run of results.
Q. Would Graham Potter have been given this much time under Roman Abramovich?
I would be very surprised if Roman Abramovich gave Graham Potter this much time. Successful managers like Jose Mourinho – who won the Premier League the season before – was sacked early in his third season. I don’t think Abramovich would have accepted this bad run of results, but this is a new ownership with a new vision, and that’s great news for Potter. He’s a good manager, but at this level, with these kind of clubs, you often don’t have time. With all these investments on players, it is expected there will be a return on investment. So let’s hope he will be given the same amount of time as Jurgen Klopp.
Q. When you won the Champions League for Chelsea in 2012, the Blues finished 6th. Is it possible that by not competing for the title, Graham Potter has a better chance of winning the Champions League?
It’s impossible now for Chelsea to win the Premier League this season of course and the Champions League is their last opportunity to win a trophy. So mentally, everyone is aware of that and is focused on being successful in the competition. In 2012 it was a great opportunity because we were thinking there are three games left to win the biggest trophy in club football. So it’s a shortcut to success for Chelsea this season, compared to Manchester City and Arsenal. Chelsea haven’t been able to compete with them in the league this season, but in the Champions League, it is possible. Chelsea have done this in the past, and they have players who can deliver on the big nights.
Q. What’s your prediction for the away game Chelsea have at Leicester on Saturday?
I think Chelsea will draw against Leicester on Saturday, especially after the Dortmund game. I hope they win, but I feel they are still fragile in terms of confidence. The opposition are still getting lots of opportunities to score, and we are not consistently scoring goals. When you look at the goalscoring record this season, it’s not good at all. Leicester will be a difficult game and I am predicting a draw.
Q. How does the Chelsea side you played for compare to this generation?
The biggest difference between my Chelsea era and the current one is that we had a strong core who stayed at the club for 8, 9 or 10 years, together, so it didn’t really matter that managers changed so much because of the character of the squad. The squad shared struggles and challenges together. Everyone had the same vision, so I think that is what they are trying to build now with these new additions. When I see the length of the contracts, I hope the idea is to keep them together and build this bond but that’s the main difference between the eras. Now you see players signing for £100m and then leaving, this is the main difference between the eras.
Q. Harry Kane is being linked with a move away from Tottenham, with reports suggesting Man Utd are leading the race. Should Chelsea join the race?
Chelsea should definitely join the race for Harry Kane. Kane is a world-class player who knows the Premier League, and it is an era where Chelsea need a striker with his goalscoring record and the ambition to win trophies. If Kane ever leaves Tottenham, it will be because of the lack of trophies. Kane would be a great signing, but I’d be surprised if he left Tottenham for Chelsea because of the rivalry. It’s not like leaving Tottenham for Arsenal, but to leave Tottenham for Chelsea, I’d be surprised but anything is possible. He’s a great option for any club in the Premier League, and for Chelsea he’d be a great pick.
Q. Napoli star Victor Osimhen has put Man Utd and Chelsea on alert by saying he dreams of playing in the Premier League. Would that be a good signing?
If Man Utd and Chelsea can make the right deal, Victor Osimhen is definitely one of the biggest prospects in Europe right now. He reminds me of Didier Drogba when he was at Marseille. I remember when Victor was in France with Lille, then he went to Napoli, and he reminded me of Drogba because he managed to deliver and has big ambitions. It would be a great step for him. But there are other factors like the connection with the coach. Nowadays, people underestimate how much the coach wants the player. Is it really the coach who wants him? And for the player that’s one of the biggest factors to consider, because everybody wants to move to the Premier League and test themselves at the highest level, it’s the best league in the world. But players need to check everything and make sure it is the right project for your progression, or you might burn your wings.
Q. A lot of players have signed for Chelsea lately. Who are you most excited about?
I was happy that Chelsea signed Mykhailo Mudryk. He’s very skilful in his decision-making. I really like Joao Felix too, he goes between the lines and has a go at defenders, creating chances. They have a lot of pressure on their shoulders because of the price tags, but I hope Chelsea can develop them.
Q. Reports suggesting it would cost in the region of £100m to make Joao Felix’ move to Chelsea permanent. Is he worth that?
I’m always surprised by today’s market values, but since the new owner came in, the price tag for any player Chelsea want is around £100m! It used to be that if a player delivered, scoring goals and winning trophies, then you can understand the price. But these days I think it’s about judging a player’s potential value. It’s a new way of determining a price tag. But if the club want to pay for it, then that’s the price. It puts a lot of pressure on the player, the expectation is very high compared to the past.
Q. Mason Mount is suffering from a loss of form and struggling to get into the XI. With Liverpool reportedly interested, should he move on?
I don’t think Mason Mount should leave Chelsea. It should be part of your mentality and spirit that when you’re at a club like Chelsea, there is strong competition. Mount is like the DNA for Chelsea, he loves the club. When you look at his performances since he got into the first team, playing lots of games for club and country, it’s normal that physically you need to recover and regenerate. But it should not be his mentality that just because you’re not in the starting XI, you have to leave. It could be the same at Liverpool or any top club. Nowadays with the fixture schedule, you cannot play all the games with the same intensity and then go to the national team too. I think he belongs to Chelsea and they should keep him, it’s important for the other players to understand he’s part of the project and the future because he’s a young and talented English player. He’s won the Champions League and other trophies, these are the players you want to keep at the club.
Q. Is there anyone else you would like to see Chelsea sign?
I’d like to see Chelsea sign Kylian Mbappe, I think we should go for top players like Mbappe. Especially when I see the amount we spend on others. It depends on his will to come to the club, but we should go for top players like him and build a team around him. That would be my dream, to build a team around him with young players around him. He’s won a lot of trophies and he’s hungry for more, so this is the type of player Chelsea should look for.
Q. Do you think Mbappe would be tempted by Chelsea?
Would Mbappe be tempted by Chelsea? Anything is possible! To tempt a player like Mbappe, it’s about building a relationship. It’s about more than just preparing a big-money offer. Players are sensitive and they know a lot about football, so clubs need to develop relationships with football and if you do that, I think you can get players like Mbappe. Clubs who spend money on players like Mbappe will get their money back. When you look at the money PSG have invested in Mbappe, he’s delivering every game. You’re not making a mistake investing in talent like this. It’s about developing a relationship between player and club, the history, because for those players it’s about legacy. Mbappe would be worth breaking the transfer record for because he’s young. It’s not a risk, when you look at his record, he’s PSG’s leading goalscorer at 24. He’s delivering, it’s not a gamble. He’s in good health, looks after himself and he wants to win and make history. If I had the money, I’d go for Mbappe. When Haaland arrived at Man City, he’s strong and confident. And when you see players confident in themselves, that’s what you want to see in the Premier League.
Q. You played with Zinedine Zidane at the peak of his powers. How much would he be worth in today’s market?
I would compare the fee Zinedine Zidane would be worth in today’s market to the fee PSG paid for Neymar. It was around £200m, so if I compare Zidane to Neymar I would say he wouldn’t be worth less than £250m in his prime, when he joined Real Madrid. No one would complain about it, I think they would be happy about it, although many shirts would have to be sold!
Q. You played with Zidane when he put in his virtuoso performance against Brazil at the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2006. Was that the best performance you’ve seen from a teammate?
Zidane against Brazil in 2006 was definitely the best performance I’ve seen from a teammate. The preparation was amazing. I was 26-years-old at the time, and I was lucky to witness the way he prepared. We had just beaten Spain. He was relaxed, even though it was Brazil, and his first touch was incredible. He uplifted the whole France team with his virtuoso performance. He was relaxed and enjoying himself, but at the same time he was the boss. Recently I saw the performance of Ronaldinho at the Bernabeu, where even the opposition were clapping. I had the same feeling for this Brazil game, especially after the 98 World Cup. I’m sure they had a plan but it was impossible. I think even the opposition witnessed greatness. It was one of the best memories of my career.
Q. Where does Didier Drogba rank among the strikers you have played with?
Didier Drogba is the best striker I have played with. I saw him in France and watched his evolution. It’s because of the way he always overcame difficulties, he was never put in a comfortable position and he always came out on top. Chelsea were bringing in other top strikers when he was there, with Nicholas Anelka and Fernando Torres. But he would always find a way to reinvent himself and deliver in big games. He has amazing ability but his mentality is his strongest asset. I think Thierry Henry in Premier League history is first, but for the best players I played with I’d put Drogba first. Henry is a legend with different qualities, he has a high IQ and knows everything about football. But it’s hard for me to consider Henry a pure striker. He was more of a 9, 9-and-a-half, on the left. Didier was the number 9, the target player. So I see him having different qualities, I compare Henry to Anelka. But what Henry did for Arsenal was also greatness.
Q. How much would Drogba be worth in today’s market?
In today’s market, a Drogba aged 24 or 25 would be worth over £200m because of his goalscoring record. He had the ability to play every game too, for club and country, without many injuries. For me he’d be worth over £200m in today’s market.
Q. Your ex-teammate Karim Benzema is still playing at the highest level. Did you expect him to achieve the success he has gone on to achieve?
When I played with Karim Benzema at Lyon, I was expecting him to hit the heights he has done. He had the ambition and the will. I would compare Benzema to Mbappe, they were both trying to be like a Ronaldo R9 from an early age. He was confident, his mind was set on greatness. He always pushed himself to improve, never happy with himself. Benzema always had his mind set on Real Madrid. When he was at Lyon, he wanted to be the main striker. He has no doubt in his mind. Then when he was captain, he was focussing on delivering so he could go to Real Madrid. You could see from an early age what he was preparing for. Everyone at Lyon understood his ambition. He said ‘you can laugh but I’m here to take your place’, he told the group that in his first appearance in the group at 16 or 17 in front of the professional squad. We knew then he was a different breed.
Q. Adrien Rabiot continues to be linked with a move to the Premier League, particularly Man Utd. Will that be a good signing?
Adrien Rabiot would make a good signing. He’s match fit and he’s playing a lot. But I think he’d be better suited to Arsenal than Man Utd. Although would be a great signing for anyone with his abilities, he can play in many different positions. But it’s important that he has a connection with the coach, that he’s being used well. He’s very talented. You can see for France, he’s doing a lot of work, a lot of dirty work to compensate for the attacking players and he helps to balance any team. He’s a talented player.
Q. Jose Mourinho left shortly after your arrival. Looking back, what do you feel went wrong?
I don’t think Jose Mourinho’s exit was about the results, I think his relationship with the club was damaged and I knew it before I signed for the club, although I still wanted to come. Chelsea had just won the double when I arrived so you can’t say it was about the results. I think there were factors that I don’t even know about. The relationship was not the same. But there were no hard feelings. It was difficult for me, I wish I could have played more with him because we had a respectful relationship. I learned quickly that Chelsea was different and no one is safe. When I saw this, it was a big reality check because it was sudden, and they had the ability to move on. The next week no one is even mentioning his name, we have a game and we need to win. You have to adjust to this kind of pressure.
Q. Could you ever see a third spell for the Special One?
I could definitely see a third spell for Jose Mourinho at Chelsea. It’s home for Jose. He knows the club, the identity and he knows football and the fans love him. He belongs to Chelsea, and I think he still has his house close to Chelsea. It’s close to his heart. He’ll always be the Special One. Football has changed but he has a love for the core of football. You associate Mourinho most with Chelsea. I don’t think anyone would complain if he came back to Chelsea to get them back to a competitive level.
Q. Despite winning the double the previous season and finishing second, Carlo Ancelotti was sacked at the end of the 2010/11 campaign. Were you and the players surprised by that?
The Chelsea players were not surprised by Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking. Even after the double we could feel something was damaged, the confidence was not there. You can see he was still successful, he’s one of the most successful managers in football history but I don’t think anyone was surprised. But we were surprised at the way it was done. We lost to Everton and then hours later he was sacked. It’s a pity because he loves Chelsea and had a great time there, but he didn’t feel like he had the confidence of the ownership. When Ray Wilkins’ contract was not extended, we could feel something was wrong. They were very close, so no one expected Carlo to stay any longer even though he finished second.
Q. You’re widely considered a Chelsea legend because you won the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup. How do you reflect on the way you left Chelsea?
The way I left Chelsea was a hard one to take. But just like with Mourinho and Ancelotti, something was broken in the relationship with the ownership. The decision was to wait until the end of the contract to be able to move freely. And It was difficult because I couldn’t say what happened. There was a lot of speculation and other things that are part of the game. But I reflect on my exit as a missed opportunity to do something for my legacy with the club I love. These were management decisions that you have to accept. It’s about choices and consequences and the consequences were hard for me to take. Even when Rafael Benitez arrived, he tried to bring me back into the squad but he didn’t know. So it was difficult, but there is still a lot of respect. The club invited me in 2019 to say goodbye to the fans in the proper way, so that was a good way to put it all behind us. It’s a pity but I just want the fans to remember the good times. It’s like how I say Mason Mount belongs to Chelsea, for me it was hard to take. But I still belong to Chelsea. Sometimes you have to accept low moments and it doesn’t affect your long-term relationship. People from outside try to fuel the situation, create something more than it was. But the relationship was just broken for many reasons. I’m still proud of what I did there, I just think of the good times and the struggle we shared together. Over time you learn and practice other ways to express yourself, and it’s all good now.
Q. N’Golo Kante is reportedly close to a new contract at Chelsea. How important is it that that happens?
Like with Mount, N’Golo Kante is important to Chelsea for other reasons and that’s what he represents to the club, what he gives to the team and the way the fans love him. I think it is necessary to keep him at the club, not only as a player but maybe after his career. You can see he’s given his health for the club. When he was injured, you could see Chelsea were not the same. There’s also his personality, it’s important, he’s a role model we need to keep. He’s humble and ambitious, he sets an example for the other players.
Q. He plays a similar role to Claude Makelele. How do you compare them and, if you had to pick one, who wins?
If I had to pick between Kante and Claude Makelele I would choose Makelele as I played with him. Kante is like Makelele 2.0. Makelele had the physical ability to support attacking players, but he had more discipline in releasing other players on the field. He was staying in this zone to help the team. Kante has physical abilities to be part of the counter attack, necessary for modern football. So it’s hard to compare but Makelele was fitting for the game at the time. I look at football now and it’s so different, statistically, with the number of high-speed runs. I think Kante is really the evolution of Makelele.
Q. Fernando Torres arrived at Chelsea in 2010 but never really captured his Liverpool form. The same can arguably be said about Andriy Shevchenko. Why do you think that was?
When Andriy Shevchenko arrived, people were expecting him to be the same player he was at AC Milan in the Premier League. It’s totally different. Torres was the main man at Liverpool, with a direct style and everyone was looking for him. When he came to Chelsea you had Drogba, Anelka and Lampard, so many other options. So when you check the stats of strikers who came to Chelsea, they were not the same because every part of the pitch is able to score. When Torres arrived it was about winning the Champions League, for him too. So people were hard on him but he delivered, he scored, he played in big games and delivered where it matters. He won trophies he didn’t win at Liverpool. But it’s like with Manchester City now, it’s not always about being the main man, you are part of a squad and there is not a key player. The threat is from everywhere, and what people remember is what you won. It’s hard for strikers because of ego and pressure, but you had to share with other top players like Lampard and Drogba. Inside, as a supporting player, sometimes there were ego issues, ‘I should be the one scoring’. Not only with Drogba, sometimes with Lampard too. That’s a hard part of management, you have to make people happy as everyone wants to play every game. People remember Torres as a Liverpool legend, but he’ll be remembered as a Chelsea legend as he won the Champions League, so I see it as a success.
Q. Looking back on your career, who was your toughest opponent?
James Milner was a tough opponent in the Premier League. He was always helping and supporting the right-back that I would be playing against, never giving up or complaining and always focused. Those types of players are very tough to play against. Milner was very strong too. He is still playing at the top level to this day because he is a gifted player. He is one of the best players in the Premier League. I’ve seen recently he has been awarded an MBE too. Zinedine Zidane was the best I played with on the same team. I was blessed to play with Zidane because when I joined the national team, he was already retired but he came back to help us qualify. I witnessed greatness with him, not just in games but in training too, he was disciplined in the way he ate, slept and trained. When a gifted player has already won the World Cup and is still disciplined like this, it was an eye-opening experience.