Frank Leboeuf
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Frank Leboeuf: Chelsea won’t win Champions League

| 15.10.2021

Chelsea and Premier League newcomers Brentford clash in a west London derby in Saturday’s tea-time kick-off so we had a chat with former Blues centre-back Frank Leboeuf who spent five seasons at Stamford Bridge.

Speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes for its 5-a-side bet on Brentford v Chelsea, the former France international talks about the Blues’ chances of retaining their European crown, Tomas Tuchel, Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Antonio Rudiger, Paul Pogba and Newcastle amongst other subjects.

Leboeuf gets things started with his thoughts on the contenders to win this season’s Premier League title…

It’s a four-horse race in the Premier League

Hopefully Chelsea can win the league this season. My former club is still in my heart and I really hope that they can still be at the top of the league, but Manchester City showed during the game against Chelsea that they are very strong and certainly stronger than the Blues.

You have to be humble and you have to respect all other teams who can also be a contender like Liverpool and Manchester United so I do think it’s going to be a race of four.

If you look at the games that those big four are playing you probably wouldn’t put United as a contender right now but there is a history behind that team and they’re going to be capable of some miracles, a bit like last season when they finished second.

Nobody thought they would be able to do so, so you have to respect the club even if I deeply wish that they are going to finish behind Chelsea. It’s going to be a big time at Christmas and New Year as often we see then that anything can happen.

Impossible for Chelsea to win Champions League again

A failure for a big club like Chelsea, Liverpool or both Manchester clubs is to win nothing. I’m not sure if any of the fans of those four clubs would be happy with just the Carabao Cup. The club doesn’t care about it and the fans don’t care about it, what they want is at least the FA Cup, if not the Premier League or Champions League.

Only one team can win each competition, though, and Chelsea have been lucky enough to win the Champions League last season but it was kind of a miracle really. Tuchel came on and changed some stuff and it worked and nobody expected Chelsea to win.

Jorginho, Kevin de Bruyne

Right now an FA Cup would be nice for Chelsea and the Premier League or the Champions League would be absolutely fantastic. The Champions League is the most unrealistic of the three because it was only Real Madrid that was able to win it three times consecutively.

I would love Chelsea to win it just two times in a row but this is why it is unrealistic. Chelsea won it last season and to win it again would be great but quite impossible if we read the stats.

Tuchel, Guardiola and Klopp are visionaries

Tuchel shares top spot with Guardiola and Klopp as the best managers in the Premier League. They’re three different coaches with absolutely fantastic mentalities and the way they see football means they are visionaries, in fact.

When I saw Tuchel against Tottenham and Chelsea working on tactics for 45 minutes and not reaching anything and struggling, and suddenly you have Tuchel who decides to win the game by putting Mason Mount out and N’Golo Kante on where that’s more defensive normally than Mount. Playing that way with a faster transition they managed to win 0-3 and that’s a masterpiece for me.

I would love to see Tuchel stay at Chelsea for a long time, we see too many coaches who only have a small timeframe now. It would be nice to have a little bit of stability at the club. It used to be like that in England where you see coaches staying for a long time like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, and it would be nice to see Chelsea stay with the same coach for five or six years.

Lukaku can be top Premier League goalscorer this season

I said on ESPN that Mo Salah will be the top goalscorer and everybody laughed about it. I didn’t name Lukaku because I thought that despite his previous experience with Chelsea he may need some more time to settle down, so I am really surprised and pleased to see him being so effective straight away.

Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea

He can be the Top Premier League goal scorer this season and I’m ready to be wrong on my prediction. I watched him play against France for Belgium in the Nations League semi-final and he was absolutely fantastic.

Werner needs to prove transfer fee

Timo Werner started well when he first signed for Chelsea and he was scoring goals but suddenly he lost his confidence. As a striker you should be scoring goals and not thinking about it, you should just be doing it and not worrying about if you miss the shot or where the goalkeeper is going to go, but if you have confidence you don’t wonder because you’re already sure, so you go for it and that’s exactly what he’s lacking right now.

I feel pretty sad for him, he’s coming back a little bit and scoring a couple of goals but it’s going to be hard for him to fight Lukaku. Maybe there’s some room for him on the left side or the right side but it’s tough competition and you have a front line filled up with talented players like Havertz, Ziyech and Hudson-Odoi so it’s going to be complicated for him.

Timo Werner, Chelsea

He signed for a large amount of money and he has to prove that he’s worth it. I expect more from him, but I also expect more from Ziyech and Havertz. Everybody is happy with Havertz because he scored the goal in the Champions League so he’s a legend forever now, but if we check what he did last season and what he’s doing now – and of course he’s young so we need to calm down and be nice to him – I want to see more from him because I know he can be much better than what he is showing right now.

Werner showed his talent when he was in Germany and you cannot lose it, but he needs to find it again – it’s like riding a bicycle as you never forget. I want to give him more time as we’ve seen so many players struggling for two years and then suddenly flying, so I hope he’s going to do that otherwise he’s going to be a failure.

Rudiger must stay at Chelsea because everyone else hates him

I’m very fond of Rudiger; that guy amazed me because he wasn’t playing any more and Tuchel believed in him and put him back where Zouma was when everything was good about him and the defence was working well and Tuchel put him in and Rudiger became another player.

Two years ago when I saw him playing I said ‘he cannot play for Chelsea’ and now look, he’s the main man, everyone hates him.

He’s a bit like Diego Costa when he was playing for Chelsea, he was hated by the rest of the world and that’s the same now for Rudiger because the guy is amazing in defence, he’s a nasty player but when he plays for your club you love it. He does well for Chelsea and he does well for Chelsea so I don’t want to see him leave when his contract expires this season.

Chelsea don’t need to sign players in January if Kante is fit

I don’t think Chelsea need to sign any players in January. The thing for me is to see how N’Golo Kante is going to do comparing other seasons where he’s struggling and he’s come back and shown his strength.

Jorginho and Kovacic are fantastic players when they have the ball and they do their best when they defend but there is no comparison to N’Golo Kante. Kante is like the mosquito you want to kill late at night when you know where he is but you just can’t get it, that’s N’Golo Kante.

You think you’ve passed him and overtaken him, but no, he’ll be there and he’s going to grab the ball and put it into transition and make the defence offensively. There is only one N’Golo Kante, so if he comes back quickly and to his best Chelsea won’t need to buy any players.

Kante is easily the best player Chelsea have signed in the last five years. Edouard Mendy is also up there as he’s made a huge difference – like Ederson did at Manchester City – by stabilising the defence.

When you play with fantastic people like them, or Fabien Barthez, you feel so much stronger with them and you don’t feel scared and you can go a little bit forward because you know he’s going to do the job. You see with France they really miss Kante when he’s not there.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to let Paul Pogba play like Didier Deschamps does

There’s a big project going on at Manchester United and they want to be back to their best so I think it’s a good idea for Paul Pogba to stay, when you look at the players they’ve signed like Sancho, Varane and Ronaldo.

I’m not sure Manchester United want him to sign again, because there’s been so many problems with Pogba like how to play him, where to play him. He seems to work with Ole but that wasn’t the case with Mourinho and so that’s a main concern too.

Paul Pogba, Manchester United

We are very happy with Paul for the national team, but I don’t see the same performances for France that I see with Manchester United and the reason is because Didier Deschamps lets Pogba be free on the field, and that doesn’t seem to be the same in the Premier League.

It doesn’t work in the same way in the Premier League as where you have to play your part in defending – another commitment – as when Paul wants to do it he can do it and he’s one of the best players in the world, but the problem is sometimes he doesn’t want to do it and he doesn’t want to make the effort and therefore you have to have Fred or McTominay who have to do double the job to compensate. Paul Pogba is a fantastic player, no doubt about it, but it’s up to him to be one of the best.

Pogba, Fernandes and Neymar need to stop with penalty theatrics

I scored a lot of penalties in my career and I never thought about playing with the goalkeeper. I don’t care about the goalkeeper, for me the only thought that I had was to put the ball in the net, not waiting for the goalkeeper to make his move.

Before they were making moves much more than now because now they can’t move, back then they were moving forward like one or two yards to close the angle so it was even harder.

I saw Ronaldo, scoring a penalty for Portugal, he doesn’t think about playing with the goalkeeper. Neymar is great but he misses some, and you shouldn’t play with the keeper.

When I started to think ‘oh last time I shot right and maybe the goalkeeper knows that so I should go left’, forget it, you’re dead. When you do the run like Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Neymar and Mbappe as well, you start thinking of missing it and the goalkeeper starts thinking of playing with you so it becomes a lose-lose situation for me and it doesn’t help.

It’s so much easier to score a penalty than stop it, so just stop playing around and just score the goal.

Mbappe should stay at PSG if he wants to win Champions League

For me personally and for France I would like to see Mbappe stay at PSG, but also for him. I met him about two months ago for the introduction of Messi and I told him ‘Kylian, just do what you feel and have no regrets, but what do you want to reach? Think now, who are the biggest clubs in the world that can win the Champions League? Man City, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Paris St. Germain’ and I’m sorry, with all due respect to that fantastic club, I do not see Real Madrid winning the Champions League this season or next season.

They are at the end of a cycle and they will have to rebuild so many things, they are absolutely horrendous at the back. They lost Ramos and Varane, Casemiro is not the same Casemiro any more, Modric and Kroos aren’t the same either.

Fortunately they have Benzema up front who is still fantastic but they are not the Real Madrid that we knew, you cannot count on the history of the club to win the Champions League. If I was Kylian I would be looking at PSG and this crazy team that they are going to build.

Nobody thought two years ago that Messi was going to leave Barcelona so you have a chance to create some fantastic history at PSG. Mbappe is from the area, so stay there, you’re going to earn lots of crazy money, and you’re going to get some trophies so why would he want to leave?

Newcastle will become next PSG

I see Newcastle United working like PSG at the time. How Paris attracted players to come over like Javier Pastore who was the first one, then the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and so on, they were paying double what they would’ve got at any other club.

If a player is worth £20 million, and the Saudis want to pay £40 million – which is like peanuts for them – they will do it and they will attract people to Newcastle. It’s exactly how PSG did it and now look at them, they are a huge club ready to win the Champions League.

Money talks and if the Saudis want to make Newcastle one of the biggest clubs in the world they will do. Abramovich came into Chelsea and changed the club, he made Chelsea successful.

Football is too soft now, there’s too much respect between players

Football is much softer now, in every country, because there’s cameras everywhere. I could’ve been nasty at the time when I was playing if the striker wasn’t respecting me, you could kick the guy in his knee, stand on his feet, scratching his Achilles and you could do that then but you cannot do that now.

VAR has changed that with all of the different camera angles, you cannot do nasty things any more and football is a lot softer because of it. You have to be careful, of course, and not go too much on the other side, but it is a contact sport.

At the end of the day I don’t really enjoy football any more. I really enjoyed it before and I enjoyed that it was a fight and it was intense but sometimes I see games and they’re not intense. I see players being too nice to each other, when I see derbies like Manchester United vs Manchester City and Liverpool vs Everton, I think there is too much respect between the players.

The north London derby the other weekend was the same, it’s not like it was before, I used to see that game with Petit and Vieira and that was bad but that was fun, we don’t see it any more, though. It’s probably cleaner now and more in the spirit but for me there is not that flavour that football used to have.

I played against David Ginola, a good friend who shared with me at the Toulon academy when we were younger, but when he played for Tottenham or Newcastle he was my enemy. I didn’t want to see him win, I didn’t want to see him even smile so I don’t want you to kiss me before the game, I don’t like you because you chose the wrong team, you should’ve chosen to play with me if you wanted me to like you.

Today it’s not like that, we saw it probably 10 years ago with the shirts after the game. Do it but do it in the locker room where I don’t see it. They have to think about the fans, when you see your own players laughing and smiling after the game they’ve lost, you have to respect the fans and respect the guy who spends his life watching his team and wants to see them win.

France can win World Cup in 2022, but Mbappe was offside in Nations League final

Mbappe was offside in the Nations League final and yes, it’s a stupid rule and I think it’s not fair to Spain. I’m happy that France won, of course, but I am little bit ashamed that we won that way especially when you have VAR.

In Garcia’s position you don’t see if Mbappe is offside or not because he’s behind you so you play the ball honestly, and you touch it, but it’s not because you touched it that you put Mbappe back into the game because you normally declare an offside when the ball kicks one of your partners’ boot, and that’s the case because when Hernandez gives the ball to Mbappe – he’s already offside so therefore he’s offside for me.

You have to be a non-footballer to pull out a rule like that, it’s insane and stupid and although it was good for France on Sunday, one day it will go against us and we will complain about it, so it’s not fair for a defender who’s just tried to play the ball. It’s not fair for football, it doesn’t work like that for me.

Karim Benzema, Spain v France betting tips

It’s possible that France can win the World Cup next year, they had an off-game against Switzerland in the Euros and it was a real shame that was the kind of game they offered to the fans, but I want to believe it’s an accident and, of course, it’s not going to be easy.

It’s impossible to say they are the favourites and they are going to win it more than a year from now. So much in football can change and there could be some injuries, some failures and changes to the mojo of the squad. If we think now and see all the teams they don’t always play well.

I think Belgium play better and Spain play better but you can’t win. It reminds me of Italy, they are not playing well but winning 1-0 all the time, it seems to be that France are not going to win 4-0 every game but they are going to win, and when they are slapped in the face like they were the other night against Belgium they react immediately and show their talent which is upsetting for us and frustrating because we know they should play like that from the first minute, but it’s like they have to be slapped in the face and wait for an hour before showing their strength.

I do think people are jealous of England. Football was made in England and you’re allowed to be a little bit arrogant about that so it would be nice to see it coming home as it’s a fantastic generation you have right now.

Referees were favourable towards Tony Adams because he was England captain

I used to dread coming up against Tony Adams, because he was the captain of England and it’s never easy because the referees are nice to people who are the captain of England. Tony Adams was able to do everything.

Alan Shearer was incredibly talented and a great striker, scoring fantastic goals, but he was a nasty player – he broke my nose twice! Shearer was very hard to cope with, though. Dion Dublin and Niall Quinn were masters, you didn’t see the ball with them, because you’re looking for the ball as they’re so huge but they just go round you and were awful to mark and I had nightmares with those.

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Warren Barner