Interview: Former Chelsea defender Frank Leboeuf

Frank Leboeuf
© PA Photos
Former Chelsea defender Frank Leboeuf tells Sports Mole why he expects Frank Lampard and Fernando Torres to play a vital role for the Blues this season.

Premier League supporters will remember Frank Leboeuf from his five-year stint at the heart of the Chelsea defence.

Despite leaving the club in 2001, the World Cup winner still has close connections with the Blues, particularly with former teammate and now Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo.

With the new season fast approaching, Sports Mole caught up with the 44-year-old to discuss the Blues' chances over the coming months, Frank Lampard, Fernando Torres and the French national team.

What have you made of Chelsea's dealings in the transfer market so far? They appear to have acquired a number of attacking midfielders in Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Oscar.
"I think [the new players] can move anywhere in the forward line – it's no problem for them. I think it was crucial to get players like those because Chelsea needed them. They bring pace and technique into the Chelsea game, or they will, hopefully. It's a long season and you have four trophies that you can get and Chelsea wants to make sure that they have the players to win at least one of them. You want to be strong enough to last 38 games in the Premier League and to defend their title in the Champions League. The new signings will cover tiredness, injuries and suspension."

Will there be room for Frank Lampard?
"I think he will fit into the system even more. I think he might end up being the most important player in the squad this season. They definitely need a catalyst because of all the new players. The team will be split in half – five players going forward and six defending. Frank likes to get forward but he can make sure that defensively everyone does their work, as well as offensively. Because he is in the middle of the team he can do that."

They are yet to sign a replacement for Didier Drogba. Is Fernando Torres the man to fill his boots?
"I think the club wanted to show to Torres that they have full trust in his talent. After Drogba decided to go they didn't want to buy a new player to show him that he has full confidence from the club. I think it's nice. The only problem now is if Torres is injured, who is going to play? I don't think Chelsea is like the Spanish team were they can play the zero system. They might find somebody, but while Torres is there they want to show him full trust. Physiologically it will help him and if he starts scoring goals at the beginning of the season everybody will be happy to see the rebirth of Torres."

Would Robin van Persie not have been a good addition? He was available after all.
"No, it wouldn't have been a good addition. There would have been a choice between him and Torres and I think it would have put Torres back in the darkness. You have to make a decision. 'We brought Torres for £50m, what are we going to do with him? If we are going to use him, we don't need to sign new players.' That is why I think it is sad to see Lukaku deciding to leave because he would have played like 25, maybe even 30 games this season. Torres is not going to play every game so they will have to find a back-up, but it can't be somebody who is going to compete with Torres."

Could Daniel Sturridge not do that job?
"Sturridge for me is more on the side, but he can do it. If they don't buy another player he will have to because there are no other choices. He has the talent for that. He has to improve parts of the game, but he certainly has the talent to have a very good season for Cheslea."

Were you pleased for your former teammate Roberto Di Matteo when he was appointed Chelsea manager on a permanent basis?
"Pleased is not maybe the right word. I just had a feeling that it was the right thing to do. If the opposite had happened I would have been upset because when somebody wins something I think he deserves to stay. It's always a difficult job when you're a coach – they are like puppets. If the team loses it is their fault or when they win it is not because of them. When they win two trophies, the only thing you have to do is to make sure you give them what they deserve. I think it is only normal that Roberto got the job after what he did for the club, with the players of course. It has given him the chance to show what he can do in a full season. If it doesn't work, you'll have the time to change. Chelsea are very good at that, they change a lot!"

Is there more pressure on him to deliver more trophies this year having done so well during his interim spell in charge?
"It's a fantastic job. Him and Eddie Newton have a fantastic place. They are former Chelsea players, the fans love them, the players love them and the club has shown that they love them. They have some pressure, but it is a good pressure. It is what you need when you belong to a big club. They have some credit because of what they did last year. They proved that they were good. They are at one of the biggest clubs in the world. That's not pressure, that's pleasure."

Moving away from Chelsea, Didier Deschamps got his stint as manager of the French national team off to a 1-1 draw with Uruguay last night. What do you make of his appointment?
"There had been some real mistakes at the end of the European Championship. I always thought that Didier Deschamps was the perfect guy for the national team. He was the captain of the team when we won everything. He's a hard worker. I saw what he did for Marseille. Winning five trophies in three years and changing the mentality of some players like Valbuena. He was in the middle of nowhere when he signed and Deschamps took care of him and Valbuena became one of the best players and now he is part of the national team. I think it couldn't be better than Deschamps right now. I'm backing him up not only because he is a friend, but because he is the right coach and the right man."

Frank Leboeuf features on ESPN's football debate show, 'ESPN FC Press Pass' and was speaking ahead of ESPN's live coverage of the Barclays Premier League this season. For details visit: espn.co.uk/tv.

Roberto Di Matteo
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