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Exclusive with Frank Leboeuf: Chelsea now a mid-table club at Ligue 1’s best players won’t want to join, a draw against Fulham is the best they can hope for and Nicolas Jackson is not good enough to be at Stamford Bridge

Frank Leboeuf

Speaking to Casinos En Ligne, ex-Chelsea legend and France World Cup winner Frank Leboeuf – who has turned to acting since he hung up his boots – thinks the Blues should pounce for Napoli forward Victor Osimhen amid his current fall-out with the club.

Leboeuf also believes Brest will not sustain their title challenge and that PSG will win Ligue 1 despite losing Neymar and Lionel Messi.

Full Transcript

Question: Is there anyone in Ligue 1 you think is good enough to play for Chelsea?

Frank Leboeuf: “There aren’t many players in Ligue 1 who come to mind as a realistic option. Let’s be realistic – Chelsea are a mid table club. Attracting players will be tough and players like Mbappe won’t want to come. The big players want to play in the Champions League. Arsenal had that problem for years, and so did Manchester United.

“Top players won’t come to Chelsea because the club has fallen. It’s unbelievable to see what the club has become just two years on from their Champions League win. I’m disgusted with it. I have nothing against Todd Boehly, but they need to change things quickly or else they’ll kill the club.”

Q. How far will PSG go in the Champions League this season?

FL: “PSG could surprise everyone in Europe. A lot of people are looking at City, Real Madrid, and Bayern, but PSG could shock a lot of us. In France, if you’re expected to play well, that’s when they implode. It happened at the 2002 and 2010 World Cups. Nobody expected us to win in 1998!

“I like PSG’s changes. Veratti, Messi, and Neymar have gone, but they’ve found a good balance. Ugarte is a great signing and I don’t know why he isn’t at Chelsea. I love him as he’s a leader and a fighter – and that’s just what PSG have needed for 10 years. I also love what Luis Enrique has done with the front-line as they counterpress when they lose the ball. I love it. That’s how I like my football. The commitment of the players at PSG is perfect.”

Q. You’ve turned to acting since you hung your boots up. Which current footballer do you think would be best suited to the silver screen?

FL: “I think any Italian player would be perfect for acting! I watched AC Milan vs Newcastle the other day, and I thought the Italian players had acting in their blood – the referees always believe them!

“I think Zlatan Abrahimovic could be great in films. He did a small part in a French movie, and he was great. I think Jamie Vardy could be great, too! He could play a bad-ass character as he has the face and the talent.

“Bruno Fernandes would be good, too, he could play a wannabe tough-guy in a comedy. He’s too skinny to take seriously as a villain. Players like Vinnie Jones and Dennis Wise would have him on toast! Just look at the pitches we played on.”

Q. Chelsea play Fulham next on Monday. What are you predicting for that?

FL: “We all know that Chelsea won’t score against Fulham. They’ll get a draw at best. As we saw against Aston Villa, there’s always a fear to concede as Chelsea will always struggle to score even once. As long as their barren streak continues, there’s a massive threat that they’re going to lose. It’s unbelievable I’m saying that about Chelsea.”

Q. Mauricio Pochettino told his Chelsea players to “grow up”. What do you think he meant by that? And what did you think about that?

FL: “In regards to’ grow up’ I think Pochettino meant that, although the players are young, they have to try something different and take risks. If you watch Chelsea play, you’ll notice that they play a lot of lateral passes to make sure they don’t lose the ball.

“This attitude is not limited to young players, by the way, as Thiago Silva isn’t taking risks either. Fans don’t care if Chelsea play 750 passes in a game – they care if they don’t score. I think Pochettino wants to see something different.”

Q. Who’s to blame for this poor start, Pochettino, Todd Boehly, or both?

FL: “I’d say the people in charge of recruitment are the most to blame. It’s ok to sign young players to long contracts if they’re committed, but the board has forgotten to balance the team. The spine of the team is very young apart from Silva and there’s not much experience there. Even Enzo Fernandes looks very young, despite knowing the game inside out.

“I don’t see the leadership, and that’s the main problem. The recruitment team didn’t think of that, and I think everybody is responsible. Boely approved the deals and Pochettino is in charge. If I was asked to manage Chelsea, even I’d say no!

“The lack of leadership is an irreversible problem – and I don’t know how they can fix that.”

Q. Were Chelsea too keen to sell their experienced players?

FL: “You can’t force a player to stay, but you have to replace them. Young, inexperienced players aren’t the correct replacements. I look at Ward-Prowse and Maddison and they’re doing so well. I have no idea why Chelsea didn’t move for either of those.

“They should have phoned me! Why is Ward-Prowse not in the squad? There’s a few others, too, like Tielemans and Maddison. Chelsea missed out on these players as they could have served Chelsea well. “

Q. Is Nicolas Jackson good enough for Chelsea?

FL: “Nicolas Jackson is not good enough for Chelsea, but it’s not a criticism of Jackson personally. He was a substitute for Villareal last season and had to wait for his chance in the squad. He’s a good player, but he’s coming into a bad atmosphere and if you’re not strong mentally, you’re going to struggle. Jackson makes silly moves on the pitch, ones I didn’t see last season. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but he couldn’t be their number-one main man.

“There’s something wrong with the captaincy, too, as Gallagher wasn’t even a starter last season and was on-loan to Crystal Palace the season before. John Terry and Dennis Law never went out on loan! I love Gallagher, but if he’s your captain, then what does that say about the others?”

Q. Of all Chelsea’s signings, who has impressed you the least?

FL: “I’m not impressed with any of Chelsea’s signings! I’m a big fan of Diasi, Badiashile, and Fofana, and I think they’re fantastic – but they’ve been drawn into the darkness. I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel as they don’t have the players to turn things around – they’re all too young.”

Q. Is Mudryk playing in the wrong side, or is he just not good enough?

FL: “Mudryk has had a tough time considering what’s happened in his country and the time he came into Chelsea, but it’s about time he starts delivering. If you have a Frank Lampard, Roberto Di Matteo, or Gianfranco Zola playing next to Mudryk then you’d see a different player.

“That’s the problem – the balance of the team. Chelsea have to break the squad in half and get some experienced players in to start getting results. Erling Haaland has scored more goals than Chelsea! I was recently asked if Haaland is going to finish the season with more goals than Chelsea, and it’s a real possibility. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen, though!

Q. Who would you like to see Chelsea sign in January?

FL: “Chelsea need a striker and an experienced midfielder. I said last season that Mitrovic would be good – he’s not world-class, but he’s a leader and a fighter. Victor Osimhen is having problems at Napoli, and maybe Chelsea can go for him in January. There’s also Nantes’ Mostafa Mohamed – I think he could do a good job.

“Chelsea also need help in midfield, someone like Toni Kross or Luka Modric. They may be older and not play as many games, but they could definitely serve the club well.”

Q. Chelsea have had bad luck with strikers over the years. Why do you think that is?

FL: “Harry Kane could’ve joined Chelsea at one point and he’s a guaranteed goalscorer. With players like Didier Drogba and Thierry Henry, you know what you’re going to get. Clubs are always looking out for players like him, and Robert Lewandowski, and Chelsea haven’t bought well over the years.

“Lukaku had three attempts at Chelsea and it never worked. Why did the club need three reminders? Romelu loved Chelsea, but it didn’t work. It also didn’t work for Mo Salah or Kevin De Bruyne, but perhaps it just wasn’t the right time for them.”

Q. Based on the evidence you have seen so far, what will the Premier League’s top-four look like at the end of the season? Where do Chelsea finish?

FL: “Chelsea won’t get top-four, and I think we already know who will – Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, and perhaps Brighton. Spurs are looking good and don’t have a European campaign to worry about this season.

“Manchester United need to get their balance right, but I think Ten Hag is a good coach and he’s made some good decisions already. Chelsea have to stop dreaming – it’s a mid table club. With the exception of Brighton, I’m expecting normal service to resume with the top-four.

Q. Do you think any of the promoted sides have a chance of survival?

FL: “I hope Chelsea don’t match Derby’s record-low of 11 points! I’d say Luton, Sheffield United, and Burnley will struggle, in all seriousness. If you think you’re going to stay up with the same team you went up with, you’re a dreamer. You have to recruit. The second season is always harder, too.

“Leicester will go back up and clubs need a good structure to be up for the fight. I always think of the people in the offices when clubs go down as they’re suffering from the mistakes of the coaches and players. I don’t like the American system where nobody goes down, but it’s always tough to see a club go down. Leicester’s return will help the Premier League.”

Q. Why is it so hard for promoted sides to stay up?

FL: “The difference in finances between the Championship and Premier League is astounding. Even the bottom-ranked Premier League sides make a fortune and, outside of the top 8 or 9, there’s very little room for error in the league. We all know that the Premier League is the biggest league, and promoted clubs need to find a way to stay up. Perhaps they need more money to recruit. It’s complicated, but every league is tough to survive in.”

Q. In France, Brest are currently top of the league. Can they sustain it?

FL: “Brest are top, but I don’t think it’ll last. I’d say PSG are just too strong to fend off for any considerable length of time.”

Q. Who do you think will win Ligue 1?

FL: “PSG will win again. I have nothing against them, but their evergreen dominance makes the league a bit boring. I watched PSG against Marseille, and it was as if Marseille didn’t exist. They were embarrassed by PSG and I can’t see anybody getting near them. Nice and Monaco are looking good, but PSG are too good. It’s like the Bundesliga – you just know who’s going to win.
City will be Champions in February.”

Q. Is the Premier League at risk of becoming like the Bundesliga?

FL: “I can’t see the Premier League becoming a one-horse league as there are the finances to avoid that situation. Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, and even Brighton all have strong squads with international players. I think City are too strong for the world, let alone the Premier League. I can’t see anybody else winning the Champions League. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona aren’t ready yet. I’m predicting City will have the Premier League wrapped up by February.”

Q. What is going wrong at Lyon right now?

FL: “Nothing’s going right at Lyon. It happens a lot in France – when a team is not performing well, the fans talk to the players on the pitch and give them their opinions. I’m not sure why this happens, as it’s not like the fans are the players’ bosses. If the fans want to punish the club, they can do that by not buying tickets. It’s happened to Marseille before. You would never see fans coming on to the pitch in England.

“I don’t know Lyon well, but one thing I’ve heard is that the players are so well-treated that it’s hard for them to have any anger on the pitch. If you look at Real Madrid, you’ll notice that the players all play with anger and hunger – they win and win and the coaches know how to rebuild the motivation for the next season. Lyon’s players seem to have an easy life as they’re treated as stars when they’re not.”

Q. What are you predicting for the upcoming PSG vs Newcastle game next week?

FL: “PSG’s Champions League group is tough, despite what people say. They’re going to find a great atmosphere at St. James’ Park – I experienced it and it was never easy. There’ll be 52,000 in black and white cheering Newcastle on.

“Newcastle are at their best when they play like the old-fashioned English sides: long-balls, pressing, and fighting spirits. With 52,000 crazy Geordies backing them up, PSG need to stay focused or they’ll get smashed.

“If Luis Enrique and PSG cope with the first 15 minutes, then they can reverse the momentum, but it’s going to be hell for the early stages. If Newcastle start well and score early on, I can see PSG losing it. However, I think that’s the only way Newcastle can win.”

Q. How do you rate France’s chances of winning Euro 2024?

FL: “It’s too soon to say, but France have a very good chance. It can be tricky with injuries and you have to respect the other teams. If someone predicts a winner 6 months or 2 weeks before a tournament, then they know nothing about football. England will be there and we don’t know how Germany will react. If England stop signing It’s Coming Home, then perhaps they can win! I think it’s a curse and I always tell my English friends to stop signing that stupid song as it always backfires! It didn’t work at the 2022 World Cup, the 2021 Euros, or the Women’s Euros, and it won’t work this time!

“I think Germany will struggle, but we’ll have to see how they fare with Nagelsmann. Perhaps the home advantage will boost them. I think the most pressure is on England as they have a great squad. France will be up there and so will Italy and Belgium. There’s also going to a side who’ll surprise everybody. There’s a lot of potential winners, and that’s why we love football.
I’d love to see Badiashile and Diasi start for France at the Euros, but that’s my Chelsea bias coming through! I don’t have any preferences as France have so many good centre-backs. Konate is a very good defender, and so is Kimpembe.

“Didier Deschamps will have a lot of question marks as we’ve never seen so many talented French centre-backs at the same time. We had around 4 or 5 in the 1998 team, but now you have 7 or 8 who could easily play. It’s a hard time, but a good problem for Deschamps to have.”

Q. Can any club other than Real Madrid tempt Kylian Mbappe next summer?

FL: “Manchester City or Bayern Munich could potentially move for Mbappe, but I think those two clubs already have great players. I think Liverpool could be an option, but I’m not sure Mbappe will want to live there! That’s all due respect to the Scousers!”

Q. Do you think Saudi Arabia have a chance of signing Mbappe?

FL: “I have no problem with 30+ players who’ve already won everything going to Saudi, but I was annoyed at Neves for going. I’m fine with Kante, Firmino, and even Mitrovic going as they’ll want to provide for their families.

“Mbappe and Neves are still young, and they’ve got to stay in the top leagues. Football is more important than anything, and I don’t think Mbappe going to Saudi makes any sense. I played in Qatar so I have no problem with the Saudi league, but it’s obvious what it is – a pre-retirement league.”

Q. Arsenal, West Ham and Tottenham have reportedly been monitoring Ousmane Dembele on a loan move. Would he make a good signing for any of those clubs?

FL: “When Ousamane Dembele is in a good mood, he’s unplayable. He doesn’t even know what his best foot is and when he runs, there’s no catching him. He could play for anyone, but his biggest issue is consistency. You don’t know what you’re going to get from him.

“The best players, like Messi, Ronaldo, Mbappe, Lewandowski, and Haaland are all consistent and score goals. Dembele could play for any of those sides, but there’ll always be question marks over him.”

Q. Is William Saliba the best defender in the Premier League right now? If not, who?

FL: “I’d have to say Saliba is the best defender in the Premier League and has been for a year now. Arteta wasn’t sure if he was going to come back from Marseille last season, and even then, he looked like the best defender in Ligue 1.

“I always thought Saliba was world-class and there’s nobody better for me. That’s not to say that there aren’t other very good defenders in the league, as Ruben Dias is also brilliant. He’s so calm and composed, and the only other defender I’d rank in Saliba’s company.”

Q. Who was your toughest opponent?

FL: “Duncan Ferguson and Dion Dublin were tough. Both were strong, tough, and tall, but good guys off the field. Shearer wasn’t the toughest, but he was tricky. He was also England’s captain, so you couldn’t do anything against him! He was a true goalscorer, however, and had huge talent. Shearer broke my nose twice – so thanks very much, Alan!”

Q. Which current defender would you most enjoy playing next to?

FL: “I’d enjoy playing next to William Saliba the most. I’d use him to defend in front of me. We’d play like old-school sweeper centre-backs and we’d cover each other easily. I’d also feel very comfortable playing with Ruben Dias as you’d know he’s always there. I used to love getting forward and scoring and I’d know Dias would stay behind and cover.”

Frank Leboeuf
Frank Leboeuf

Born on January 22, 1968, in Bouches-du-Rhône, France, Leboeuf's journey from a small-town boy to a World Cup-winning defender is nothing short of extraordinary. Frank Leboeuf's passion for football was ignited at an early age, and he began his professional career with Stade Lavallois in 1986. He quickly caught the attention of scouts, leading to a transfer to Strasbourg in 1991. Leboeuf made his international debut for the French national team in 1995 and was soon an integral part of the "Golden Generation" of French football. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career came in 1998 when he played a pivotal role in France's triumph at the FIFA World Cup. The centre-back enjoy a successful career at Chelsea, where he was a key figure in the "Crazy Gang" era. During his time at Chelsea, he won numerous accolades, including the FA Cup, League Cup, and the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. After his tenure at Chelsea, Leboeuf played for clubs such as Marseille and Qatar Stars League's Al-Sadd. Frank Leboeuf retired from professional football in 2005. Following his retirement, he transitioned into the world of media and entertainment. Beyond his media career, Leboeuf also ventured into acting, starring in movies and television shows.