Chelsea legend Frank Leboeuf opened up to Fair Betting Sites about how his criticism of Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold last month was taken out of context and led to death threats and accusations of racism online.
Leboeuf has said the Blues signing Cristiano Ronaldo would be a huge risk for the mood of the dressing room.
Ronaldo has been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge after falling out with Manchester United manager Erik Ten Hag, but The French European Championship and World Cup winner has reservations about the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Former defender Leboeuf also urged Chelsea to sign PSG’s Kylian Mbappe, as well as Declan Rice from West Ham in January, adding that seeing him play with fellow Blues academy product Mason Mount would give him ‘goosebumps’.
If you would like to use the quotes from this interview, please credit Fair Betting Sites and link to www.fairbettingsites.co.uk.
Key stories from the interview:
- Clarifies Trent Alexander-Arnold comments, reveals death threats and accusations of racism
- Ronaldo would be a risk for Chelsea
- Chelsea break bank for Mbappe & Rice
- ‘Goosebumps’ thinking about academy boys Rice and Mount together
- Fires back at Rio Ferdinand after TAA comments
- Chelsea WILL finish in the top four
- William Saliba is France’s No1 defender right now
Owen (O): Chelsea drew against United at the weekend in injury time, how disappointed are you that they couldn’t hold on for the three points?
Frank Leboeuf (FL): “Manchester United didn’t give up after Chelsea scored the penalty and they deserved the draw in my view. I don’t think Chelsea did everything possible to win that game. I was only disappointed because having scored in the 88th minute of course you expect them to win but a draw was a fair result. Chelsea didn’t put all the ingredients in to win and will have some regrets because they didn’t do everything possible to to win the game.”
O: Chelsea have scored 16 and conceded 11 goals. Where do you think Chelsea need to improve to pick up more points?
FL: “It’s been the same problem for the last three years, providing a supply line to allow someone to consistently score goals. They’ve tried Lukaku and it didn’t work out and now it’s Aubameyang but the problem is that they don’t consistently serve them because the football they play is more horizontal passes and keeping possession rather than trying to score goals quickly like Liverpool do for example. You would think with Reece James and Ben Chillwell they would swing in a lot of dangerous crosses, although they’ve both suffered injuries and that hasn’t helped, but it seems that Aubameyang is suffering in the same way that Lukaku did with a lack of service. Even though their build up play is getting better under Potter because they are more vertical than they were under Tuchel, they still seem more interested in keeping the ball rather than hurting the opposition. That seems to be the mind frame of the players, not losing the ball rather than risking an incisive pass. A lot of backwards and sideways passes with no risk and the stats will show a high pass completion ratio but I want to see more progressive passing. So that’s my main concern for Chelsea is that I don’t see many players who will risk missing a pass and playing more vertically. Everything is too calculated, and football is a game of intuition in order to make something special happen in order to surprise the defence.”
O: Ronaldo was not even on the bench and looks like his days at United are over, do you think Chelsea should sign him?
FL: “I think Chelsea signing Cristiano Ronaldo would have been a good idea in the summer when Todd Boehly was suggesting they were interested. But I’m certain that Tuchel would’ve been against the idea because of how it turned out when he was dealing with Mbappe and Neymar as megastars at PSG and he wouldn’t have wanted to relive that experience. I really thought Ronaldo could’ve been a good signing for the club commercially because clearly Ronaldo is worldwide in terms of his marketability but in terms of on a football level, I’m not so sure. I have respect for him as the fantastic player and legend that he is but as time passes and you get older, eventually you hit that time to retire, and you want to make sure you don’t prolong your career too much and end up potentially damaging your reputation. I really thought that Messi might have called time after last season at PSG but he’s showing he’s not ready to quit yet so I hope that football and Ronaldo himself that he will find a club that suits this stage in his career where he scores lots more goals. I have doubts about that, but I don’t want to say that it’s over and he should retire. But for Chelsea they’ve just signed Aubameynag so what really is the point of adding Ronaldo because where does that leave him or Broja if Ronaldo comes? They might feel unwanted. Psychologically you have to be careful what you do in terms of the dressing room morale.”
O: Do you think Ronaldo could do the same as he’s done at United and upset the dressing room if he is benched at Chelsea?
FL: “Ten Hag did well with CR7, he was patient when they had the friendly against Villarreal when him and Dalot left before the end of the game, but Ronaldo’s actions were completely disrespectful towards the club, the fans and the teammates. It’s also unprofessional and for it to happen again against Tottenham I think you cannot do that, and he knows exactly what he was doing and wanted to show to the world that he was unhappy. You see him shaking his head and acting up, but Ten Hag hasn’t dropped him from the squad to humiliate him, he’s done it for the good of Manchester United. I always think about the guy who comes in to replace him, and it shows that Ronaldo doesn’t have any respect for him because it basically says, ‘I think I’m better than you.’ Ronaldo has to be punished, only his own fans won’t agree with me.”
O: Who has been your standout performer for Chelsea so far?
FL: “Thiago Silva is my player of the season so far for Chelsea. The guy is amazing. He’s playing even better than he was at PSG. He may have lost a little bit of pace, but he compensates for that with his mind because he is a very smart person. He’s tough defensively, he seems to have adapted so well to the physicality of the Premier League. He knows the referees won’t give him fouls as easily as like they did in Ligue 1 so he has to toughen up and he has done. Mason Mount deserves respect for his recent performances and also Kepa Arrizabalaga too since he came into the side. Some incredible MotM performances recently against Aston Villa and Brentford and I’m very surprised because I’m a big fan on Mendy but it’s true that his form was shaky and he needs to improve with the ball at his feet. But if Kepa keeps up these great performances Mendy isn’t getting his place back and he will have to look for another club very quickly. He’s too good to sit on the bench.”
O: Should Chelsea break the bank for a new player in the January window and if so who?
FL: “When I heard Mbappe saying he doesn’t see his future at PSG I thought there’s nothing stopping Chelsea from going all out to try and bring him to Stamford Bridge. If he wants to leave PSG, Boehly could slap £100m on the table and say ‘take it or leave it’ because nobody else realistically is going to buy him. People say Real Madrid but they’ve got Benzema up top and Vinicious Jr on the left and Rodrygo on the right and they’re on fire so I can’t see him going there right now. Otherwise, the only other position I think Chelsea need to strengthen in is central midfield as a potential replacement for Kante. Kante is out for about 4 months and while Jorginho is a great player he is not defensively minded. Kovacic is a good player, and he does his job well, but he needs a partner. Declan Rice is the one for me. It would be very, very interesting if Kante left, I would love to see them go and get Rice from West Ham. I get goosebumps thinking of Mason Mount and Declan Rice playing together at Chelsea because they are academy graduates and that’s what fans want to see. Man Utd are missing the point with their transfer policy of just buying big stars. They need to remember the Neville brothers, Beckham, Scholes, Giggs etc all came through the system and providing the backbone of the greatest period in the club’s history. The biggest figure in Chelsea’s recent history is John Terry, who OK started at West Ham but he’s Chelsea through and through and came through the academy like Mason Mount. Declan Rice belongs to Chelsea, like Conor Gallagher.”
O: Have you been impressed by the new signings like Sterling and Aubameyang?
FL: I’m never sure what to expect from Raheem Sterling. He has incredible pace, and he can be a genius sometimes and then be so clumsy straight after. I said I had doubts that he would really change Chelsea’s attack dramatically, but he has scored goals and maybe I was wrong about that but now I think actually I was right. His talent is evident but there’s a lack of consistency which is what’s need at the highest level. When you talk about Erling Haaland it’s crazy consistency and that’s what I want to see from Sterling, instead of him disappearing for half an hour or 45 minutes. Like how you see with Bukayo Saka at Arsenal, when he gets the ball, you always feel something is going to happen. He tries something special, and I also see it from his teammates Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus. They’re a real triple threat and I’m looking for that at Chelsea, but I can’t see it.
O: Gabby Agbonlahor said Koulibaly has looked dreadful, and teams will target him if he plays. Do you agree?
FL: “Koulibaly needs to adjust and adapt and need time to do that. He’s not the guy we saw at Napoli at the moment, but he hasn’t lost his talent. He will improve he just needs time. I wouldn’t say he’s dreadful he’s just not the player we saw in previous seasons at the moment. I wasn’t on Rio Ferdinand’s level, but I had aspects to my game that helped me in the Premier League. Right now, on top of not being strong enough, when Koulibaly has the ball, he only makes very short passes to Silva or Chilwell. But I am optimistic for him, and I think very soon he will prove his worth.”
O: Where do you see Chelsea finishing this season?
FL: “Chelsea have finish top 4, that’s the goal and anything less would be a disgrace. They have the team to do it. Man City are going to be champions, Liverpool losing to Forest shows this could be an off season for them despite beating City the week before. Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal are going to be up there but let’s not rule out Newcastle either. I love that city; it truly is a city of football. The players and the club right now really represent what the city is – hard work, passion and power. It’s great to see. They might not have the best players in the world, but they are more than the sum of their parts and that makes them very hard to beat as we saw in their win over Spurs. With Tottenham, if Kane and Son aren’t in good shape they just don’t win. While I can’t see Arsenal winning the title this year, top four should be their real target and it’s an achievable one given their start to the season.”
O: Where do you rate William Saliba in terms of world center-backs?
FL: “Saliba will definitely be in the France squad and should be in the starting lineup especially now given Varane’s injury. He’s gone up two or three levels since coming back to Arsenal from Marseille this season. I love that the fans understood his predicament and have really got behind him. Marseille are still crying over the fact that he didn’t stay but it has proved a wise decision by Arsenal and Arteta to keep him and play him and also Saliba has made the right choice himself to be playing in the Premier League. He has stabilised their central defence. Credit to Ben White also he combines well with Saka and even Granit Xhaka has reinvented himself now. He’s the heart of the Gunners right now and Saliba is profiting from that right now too. Kimpembe is injured, Varane is injured too so yes there are other defenders, but Saliba is the most consistent right now. If the World Cup was tomorrow William Saliba is France’s No1 central defender for me.”
O: Do you think Anthony Martial should be in the France squad? Would you advise him to leave Manchester United in January or the end of the season?
FL: “Martial won’t be at the World Cup in my view, there’s too many other options and players who are playing more. He should have left Man Utd last summer. He didn’t I don’t know why but his future is not at the club. Right now, it’s Rashford and if it’s not him then it’s Ronaldo. We’ll see him in the Europa League, he’ll get some chances but probably only because Ronaldo is being punished.”
O: You commented on Alexander-Arnold’s defending being Championship level, do you stand by that comment after recent performances?
FL: “I want to go back to why I supposedly said that. First, I said worse, I said ‘not even Championship level’. But it’s not what I actually said. I’m very upset with the English media who took half of what I said and ran with it. I said ‘Trent Alexander-Arnold I love the guy’. I love his spirit, his mentality and what he brings offensively. Because it’s only fair that if you criticise him defensively that you compliment his attack threat. Previously as a fullback your priority was to defend well but that is not the case in 2022. We started to see that with the like of Roberto Carlos, Marcelo and Cafu. But the headline that TAA is a Championship level player is wrong, I never said that and would never be disrespectful to him like that. Fair enough Rio Ferdinand said I wasn’t a good defender, that’s his opinion and it’s not totally untrue. I wasn’t the best defender in the world, but I had more knowledge about defending than TAA has because TAA has nothing. He knows nothing about defending because it’s not the idea of his position – which is crazy.”
O: What do you think of Klopp’s defence of him and saying he is told to play in the more attacking way as a risk?
FL: “I think Klopp has to help TAA out. Put Gomez behind him or Milner behind him but don’t ask him to defend because he doesn’t know how to do it. It’s not part of his computer. TAA’s computer says ‘no i’m not interested in defending’. He doesn’t even know what to do but what he can do is provide fantastic crosses or long-range passes to the front line and because that’s where the real quality lies. These comments I made about TAA being taken out of context have seen me labelled as a racist and I’ve also received death threats over social media, and I hate that. It’s totally unjustified because it was not a personal attack on TAA yes, I criticised his defensive ability but as part of my analysis I also praised him highly. Even Rio Ferdinand would probably agree, but if he tried to tell me that Trent Alexander-Arnold is a great defender I’d really want to talk to him about that. But you have to look at the whole picture. In modern football a player in that position is, what do you need more from him? His passes or his defending. If Klopp is playing him there in the right side as a fullback who need to defend then all the teams Liverpool play against will target him, that’s obvious.”
O: Similar to Koulibaly, Wesley Fofana struggled before his injury. Do you think he will get back into the team when he recovers?
FL: “Fofana is a fantastic player but for sure he’s not worth £85m right now. He’s very young and has everything to prove but what he did for Leicester was amazing and he certainly has a great future and the potential to be one of the top CBs in the Premier League. But you’ll have to give time to grow. Obviously, he has a huge lack of experience given that he’s only 21 and only played 40 PL games. That means mistakes are a given but when you play alongside someone like Thiago Silva he will teach him to make less mistakes. That’s part of life. You grow from that. He won’t play at the World Cup this time round for France but he will play in the next two or three for sure.”
O: Who do you think will win the Champions League this season?
FL: “It’s very open this season. Manchester City are really the team to beat. Real Madrid was so lucky last season but they had a fantastic spirit and stamina to achieve what they achieved. But by far they weren’t the best team. Bayern Munich will be there or thereabouts. PSG if they’re in a good frame of mind they could do something special for sure. I don’t know how the World Cup will impact the Champions League that remains to be seen. If Brazil win the World Cup what will Neymar’s state of mind be after that? You might not see him again for a while!”
O: What are your predictions for the World Cup? Do you think England have a shout of winning it?
FL: “I always wish England the best because I still have many friends there. Football was created in England and I really felt that the first time I set foot on the pitch at Wembley where you can feel that you are in a very special location. The problem with England is that I feel that players value their club careers over their England career. The rivalry between certain clubs affects the players’ state of mind when they are on international duty. You still feel that Liverpool players and Man Utd players perhaps don’t always see eye-to-eye and the same with Arsenal and Tottenham players for example. The fans feel the same way. But in any other country that lack of unity doesn’t exist within the national team. It’s unique to England because the clubs are so huge and the fans are so intense in their support. If you play for Dortmund or Bayern Munich they still stick together for Germany. But England does not have that. For me Brazil are too strong for everybody at this World Cup. Everyone used to say their weakness was at goalkeeper but now for me they have the two best in the world. They’re strong in all positions. Casemiro has upgraded Manchester United so quickly. I would love to see Martinelli in the squad although he plays the same position as Vinicius Jr but I think he deserves a chance.”