Louis Saha interview: The Everton striker on what he does with his missus before each match and lots more
Published 22:30 14/12/11 By Neil McLeman
As the longest-serving Frenchman in the Premier League, Louis Saha has spent longer in English football longer than his countrymen Eric Cantona or Thierry Henry did.
And the former Newcastle, Fulham, Manchester United and now Everton striker has partnered some of the biggest stars in the game and thrived under the guidance and protection of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The 33-year-old has now written his autobiography, to be published in the New Year, recounting his journey from Paris to Goodison Park.
Saha admits he has become a better player and person during his years alongside Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud Van Nistelrooy.
The France international started his English adventure in 1999 on a half-season loan from French side Metz to Newcastle, where he played with England No.9 Shearer.
"He was a phenomenon," Saha recalled. "Nearly 300 goals in the Premier League, a symbolic player.
"He had an aura about him, a determination and an incredible confidence. He made me understand football - it is above all about instinct. He was always in the right place and would shoot from wherever he was. And he trusted his instinct."
After a brief spell back at Metz, Saha returned to England to help Fulham into the Premier League, before Ferguson paid £12.4million for him in January 2004.
He was soon joined up front at Old Trafford by his friend Rooney.
"I spent most time with Wazza," said Saha said. "And he is the player I felt closest to."
But the Frenchman reserves his highest praise for Ronaldo.
"There is not a more complete player in the world," he said. "He could play in any position. He will always score because he runs quicker and jumps higher than everyone. His endurance is crazy - his power of shot as well.
"He would score 30 goals in any team, because he can do it all on his own. Messi is maybe the best player in the world, but I am convinced he has need of the team to play."
Saha also admired Van Nistelrooy's focus.
"He was the most selfish goalscorer," said the Frenchman. "But a goalscorer needs to be selfish, to be obsessed by scoring. Ruud was a killer. Like Inzhagi or Trezeguet. Obsessed."
Saha reckons he has survived and prospered despite knee problems, a string of moves to new clubs and media criticism because of his personality - and Fergie's advice.
"It (the media) imposes an enormous pressure," Saha told France Football magazine. "Already, because of what we do, we are in the spotlight. And then there are extra pressures, more disturbing, which are even harder.
"I had the luck to be someone who likes to stay at home and who found a wife quickly. I therefore avoided these problems.
"And at Manchester United, the club protects you enormously. Ferguson is very strong for that. It is one of his great strengths about which people don't talk about much, but which is very important for a player.
"Does he brief you when you arrive? In effect, but his conversation is adapted to the personality of the player. With me, he knew I was quite calm and sorted. He just said to me, 'Carry on like that!'"
Saha believes the Premier League has changed since his arrival, especially during the last five years.
"It has become more intense. Quicker. More physical," he continued. "Today, the tactical element has almost become a side issue. What matters is to be ready physically and mentally, because it never stops.
"In Italy, matches have rhythm with strong and weak periods. Here, it is 90 minutes solid.
"I also believe that the arrival of foreign coaches has changed the deal.
"They have brought more rigour in all aspects and Europeanised the play. When I arrived in 1999, we had the habit of seeing play with wingers, and attackers surging into the box and aiming balls onto their heads.
"But the tradition still lives on, like at Manchester United, where attacking play is part of the tradition since the time of the Busby Babes and George Best."
Saha sounds like another Old Trafford legend - philosopher king Cantona - when reflecting on being here for so long.
"It has passed quickly. Without doubt because I have often changed clubs, I have the impression to have always been a new player," he reasoned. "I have not had the time to realise.
"As I have written in my book, there have also been injuries which have allow me to step back during the adventure. I have discovered my inner self as I have got older but I have kept a child's view on life. The desire to have fun has never left me. I have just opened my eyes."
Saha, who won 19 France caps, moved to Everton in 2008 and scored the fastest goal in FA Cup Final history the following year.
He is now in a fourth stop-start season at Goodison Park, where he has scored twice in 12 appearances after a time out of the side.
"The situation is normal again," he said. "It is normal that there are little tensions. Maybe he (Toffees boss David Moyes) wanted to get a reaction from me. The important thing was that I got the explanation that I needed because I am playing again.
"The start to the season has been very complicated at the club. The financial problems meant we did not have a real recruitment campaign. Indirectly, that impacts on us.
"When a player like [on-loan Real Madrid midfielder Royston] Drenthe arrives at the last minute and [Mikel] Arteta departs [to Arsenal], it is disturbing. It takes time to settle again."
Saha also revealed he will follow his usual pre-match routine before facing Norwich on Saturday.
"We have a meeting an hour-and-a-half before kickoff at 1.30pm," he said. "We can stay at home in the morning. I wake up at about 9 o'clock. Then I do an hour of stretching. Small breakfast.
"Next I take a shower and put my suit on. That is an English tradition, like at school. Here, players come to the stadium in the club suit. But it is also a way of getting ready for the match, to remind yourself of the instructions during the week - so you are not trying to remember the tactics at the last minute.
"It allows you to concentrate and quieten your nerves. It is a bit like a superstition.
"And then, before I leave, I always say the same thing to my wife: 'This is the most important game of my life.'"
KNOWING ME, KNOWING YOU, SAHA: LOUIS' CAREER STATS
1998-2000 Metz - 47 games, 5 goals
1999 Newcastle (loan) - 11 games, 1 goal
2000-2004 Fulham - 117 games, 53 goals
2004-2008 Manchester United - 86 games, 28 goals
2008-2011 Everton - 89 games, 27 goals