Hosted by Courts Singapore as part of their SG50 celebration, former French World Cup Champion and Chelsea player, Frank Leboeuf, was at Courts Megastore to meet & greet fans.
Since hanging up his boots in 2005, he has followed in the footsteps of fellow Frenchman, Eric Cantona, by transitioning to acting and appearing in stage and film productions. Citing that acting has always been his ‘first passion’ as a child, he studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute in West Hollywood and has since appeared in movies like Allies and The Theory of Everything, making him the only World Cup-winning footballer to appear in an Oscar-winning film.
In addition to having had the honour of meeting Frank Leboeuf, I also managed to have a little chat with him.
Who is the best player for Chelsea this season? The man from Belgium, Eden Hazard of course! His power and technique makes a real difference. He has really developed since the last campaign. This season he is able to change games and make the difference like he did against Manchester United quite recently. The one chance that he had, he put the ball in. He’s reaching new levels but I think this is just the beginning for him. I wouldn’t say he is that far off from reaching the heights of Messi or Ronaldo.
If you were playing against Hazard now, could you have stopped him? Yes, of course! Haha. Easily! I would talk to him and say, if you move too much I will smack you in the head. But seriously it’s impossible to play against guys like him. Thierry Henry for example, it was like racing to catch up with an Olympic sprinter! I had to start running 20 yards even before he made a move. With players like Hazard—the way they dribble—it always seems like you are going to get the ball but once you make a tackle they skip away. The ball is just stuck to their feet and it’s impossible to get it—plus the acceleration and pace. It’s just amazing! In this new generation we are seeing so many new things with Ronaldo’s free kick technique and more.
Who is the hardest player that you have had to defend against? I would say Henry for different reasons. He was my friend and we played together for the national team and I did not want to injure him. Haha. I was a little bit too cautious, but Thierry, he didn’t care. He just wanted to score goals. I have nightmares playing against him and mostly Arsenal because it was mainly a French team at that time. Wiltord, Pires, Henry, Petit, Anelka. They were all in the national team and they were all my friends. I hated it… But the player I would have never wanted to play against was Mark Hughes. He was such a monster, a beast in the middle of the park. You could see three guys coming for him and still he would be standing with three guys on the ground, fantastic player.
Was Mark Hughes the most talented player you’ve played with? Well, it would be an insult to Gianfranco Zola if I did not mention him. He had a little bit of what Messi had at some point. He was another fantastic player and made the difference for us when he came to Chelsea. Every time he played he was so special.
If you had to choose one player from your French team to play for the current one and vice versa, who would that be? Marcel Desailly cause I played alongside him at both, club and international levels and it was great experience to play alongside the rock. I would have also loved to play alongside Raphael Varane and I hope to see him at Chelsea next season! Haha!
What’s your secret to scoring so many penalties in your career? I don’t know! When I was young I was missing all my penalties. I guess I had the confidence to step up and take the shot and more often than not it went in.
How is Chelsea different now than compared to before? With Jose Mourinho, they have a very good defense and I agree with that philosophy. Historically speaking, teams without a good defense have not won anything and the way he animates the game with his attacking players like Willian, Oscar, Fabregas, Hazard, Matic and Costa upfront—you have all the players you need offensively to achieve the win. Those guys are threats anytime during the game and can go on and make the difference.
What do you think is your biggest achievement? First of all, I’m grateful to have played at the highest level for 17 years. The first FA cup win with Chelsea was special. The club hadn’t won anything in the past 25 years and the fans were just crazy after that at Wembley. Of course, the World Cup as well, there were a million over people in Paris and everyone remembers the 12th of July 1998. It was a special day and everyday someone talks to me about it. They don’t compliment me but instead they say thank you and that’s the most gratifying feeling.
Your best eleven from your time? Goalkeeper: Oliver Khan; defenders: Lilian Thuram, myself, Marcel Desailly, Lizarazu (All French!); mid-fielder: Petit, Di Matteo, Zidane, Giggs; strikers: Zola and Henry; Coach: Ruud Gullit.
What do you miss most after football and retirement? I miss nothing! Sometimes I miss the crowd, the fans. I gave up football cause I was fed up with traveling, going to hotels and waiting for the matches. The demands of the game that has been asked all the time. What you eat, drink and how you sleep. After 20 years I decided to quit. I don’t even play anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching football. But sometimes I wonder how I even did it. Watching the players run as much as they do—I feel tired for them. I don’t regret anything and there is a time for everything. I’ve played over 600 games in my career and I think my time was done. I’m just happy enjoying my life.
What is the most important quality for a footballer? The heart. If you don’t have the heart and the passion, you won’t be able to push yourself to the limit and you will wear out… The heart is the most important.