Louis Saha Exclusive

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After what you've seen so far, who wins the World Cup and why?

I'd love to see France keep going after their performance against Australia, it was a very convincing win. This defence and midfield can defend well against bigger teams too, with respect to Australia.

If you ask me who performed as good as France, I'd say maybe England and Spain. In terms of balance you need to win the World Cup, it's England. But the quality of attack with Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele is very frightening. They're completely unplayable.

 

Adrien Rabiot looked impressive. He's been linked with a move to the Premier League, could you see him settling in?

Any player who goes to Juventus will have great fitness. Adrien Rabiot is a clever player who can score, pass and defend on the big stage. I don't see any reason why he could not perform in England if he moved.

 

Olivier Giroud became France's joint top scorer. Where does he rank among France and Premier League strikers?

Olivier Giroud is always compared to Thierry Henry, Van Persie, to those skilful players which is not his style. But from the stats, he's up there with the best. The way he's won trophies at every club he's been to in his career shows that he's a trophy-winner, no-one can dispute that. It's a shame that people focus on his style of play rather than his impact.

Would you rather have Harry Kane or Olivier Giroud's career?

I'm sorry but there is absolutely no comparison between Harry Kane and Olivier Giroud's career, Giroud has won the Champions League, World Cup, FA Cup, Serie A... The way he helped guide the team to the World Cup with his goals, he was one of the key elements in Didier Deschamps' team. I would definitely take Giroud's career over Kane.

After England’s win against Iran, can Gareth Southgate take England World Cup glory?

You can see there is good balance and good spirit in the England team which has given the English fans and media a lot of hope. Everything is gelling well, there is no controversies which is great to see. The nation is very together. They need the trophy they've been waiting for. Southgate is always taking strong decisions and I like that.

I really like Marcus Rashford, you know he can be a starter, he's such a talent and threat. In less then 20 minutes against Iran, he showed how dangerous he can be. I love Harry Kane, but Rashford is just a humongous talent and I love to see him at this level.

Kane is the best player, but Rashford is my favourite player in the England squad because of his style and I really enjoy watching him play. When Rashford has the eye of the tiger, he's unplayable and at the same level as Kylian Mbappe.

There will be times where fresh legs are needed in the squad, Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling are very good positionally but Rashford has more ability and physicality, he can score headers too. Rashford is more complete, but it does not mean he fits well in every game plan.

 

What’s your prediction for England vs the US?

England will have another convincing win against the US like they did against Iran. The US are a strong team but I see England still coming on top. It will be a convincing 2-0 win for England.

 

You shared a dressing room with Cristiano Ronaldo, will he be hurting at the way things ended?

Of course Ronaldo will be hurting from the way he's left Man United, he's been targeted for not being a team player, but he wanted to win with Man United. Ronaldo wanted to reach first place with Man United in the Premier League. I'm sure that he's hurt from the way he has not been respected. No one has been able to score 700 goals and physically sacrificed as much as he has to stay at the top. Everyone who has retired 33/34-years-old and are claiming Ronaldo needs to stop because he's too old, they don't respect Ronaldo's fitness, it's completely unfair.

A lot of people abroad, not only England, are only jumping on the anti-Ronaldo debate. Ronaldo criticised Rooney, but there's a reason for that. At Ronaldo's age, he should be respected and not treated like a piece of garbage. People have to respect what he's achieved. If you're telling me Ronaldo is not dangerous anymore because of his age then people are absolutely crazy, people just want to be in the headlines speaking against him.

 

Do you think he's gone about things the wrong way?

Ronaldo has respected the Portuguese national team with the timing of his interview because he could have done it during the World Cup and it would have been too late for him to do it after if he wanted to leave. Three or four months he tried to leave because he was not guaranteed starts and did not get the support he deserves. A club who has struggled to win trophies for the last six years was an enormous challenge for Ronaldo to be respected the same way he has been at other clubs.

 

How did you feel when he ignored Gary Neville pitch-side, but shook your hand? 

I thought Ronaldo and Neville had said hello before the handshake incident or something. Ronaldo was obviously hurt from Neville's comments but what people have said, especially teammates, everyone has been on his back. People have been very harsh on him, demanding for improvements. Neville has his own opinion, that's his job, the snub from Ronaldo was not necessary but everyone has a different reaction. Ronaldo could have called Neville and gave his own opinion to him, but he chose to snub him because he's ruthless like how everyone has been ruthless with him.

 

Is he worth starting for Portugal anymore given his Man Utd form?

The Portuguese forwards are very talented players, but Ronaldo has delivered before under loads of pressure, I don't know how many managers he has saved and now because of the Man United situation, people are doubting him. Ronaldo always responds to critics on the pitch, obviously he has not done that for Man United this season, but he was fighting a different challenge. I hope he takes Portugal to the final against France.

Ronaldo had 27 goals last season and everyone was on his back, how can you have 27 goals and get blamed for poor team performances, it's insane.

 

This is going to be Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's final World Cup. Who do you think has been the better player and why?

Messi and Ronaldo are the two best players in their own ways. They pretty much have the same numbers, trophies and individual accolades in their immense careers, to pick one would just be about style. From the way Ronaldo has challenged and sacrificed himself, he deserves more accolades and respect than Messi for that. If Ronaldo stayed at one club in his career and was in charge like Messi, I don't know how many more goals he would have scored, it would have been ridiculous. But Ronaldo challenged himself in different leagues. 

Who's the toughest defender you played and why?

I always remember playing against Vidic, Ferdinand and van der Sar. Those three would disgust a striker by the way they anticipated everything, it was very frustrating. In terms of toughness, I did not like playing against Gattuso either, he was a tough lad, I remember playing him in the Man United game against Milan.

 

You played with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Thierry Henry and of course Ronaldo, who was the best you played with? 

I really enjoyed playing with Rooney, it was the perfect match. Ronaldo was more of an individual talent who did not need to be linked up with. But Ronaldo was the better player.

In terms of connection, I preferred playing with Rooney and Ronaldo than Henry. Henry was a fantastic talent, one of the best you'll ever see, but connection-wise, I had minimal connection with Henry on the pitch.

 

You also played with Gareth Bale and Tottenham. Is he the greatest British player ever?

Bale is definitely one of the greatest icons in British football with what he's won with Real Madrid and what he's done with Wales. A player like Ryan Giggs had the chance to do what Bale has done with Wales but he could not. I respect Bale and the resilience he's had over the years, it's been amazing.

Bale is in the top five British players in history, you have Rooney in there too, they're both icons.

 

The Glazers are reportedly looking for buyers. Does the club need new ownership?

It's the right time for the Glazers to negotiate the selling of Man United. The Ronaldo interview has highlighted there's been zero evolution in the club and its facilities. People will say Ronaldo has said that because he's unhappy but he['s been to big clubs and he knows what the standards are. Man United need to move forward.

 

Reports suggest Apple are interested in buying the club. What do you think of that?

Apple is one of the biggest companies in the world and can do amazing things with Man United. They may not know too much about football but it's something different. Apple will have all the nice technology! In the end, the most important part is what culture the new owners want to bring into the club and what structure they bring too. They will need to respect and match the ambition of Man United.

Many clubs are happy if they're successful under new owners, but I want an owner that respects the tradition of Man United.

 

It has been suggested Man Utd will only be able to compete with Manchester City if they are taken over by a super-rich state in the Middle East, do you agree with that? 

The main thing about a new owner is not where they come from but what ability they bring. I'd prefer to hear owners who might have an idea to introduce the 51% ownership to the fans. I don't mind whether the new owners are from the Middle East, Europe, or America, as long as they protect the legacy of Man United rather than a new product to make money. They need to think about how to continue bringing new fans who are kids to Old Trafford and continue generations of fans.

 

Who would you like to see Man Utd sign in January?

I'd like to see Man United sign Rafael Leao and Joao Felix, they're amazing talents and very dangerous. They can play on the wing and as strikers. I'd like to see Gavi too but the Premier League is a different animal, it would be hard for him to settle. When you come from Spain to England, it's a very different challenge, they will need to adapt straightaway.

Can Mbappe's ego cause problems in the France changing room?

As a footballer, you don't need to be best friends with everybody. Mbappe wants to win the World Cup, so if he sees his ego is hurting the team, he will stop so he can win it again. The France group is very young, they'll have to sacrifice their ego to help Mbappe to win games for France. I'm not saying they should take orders from him, but he will help win games for France. I trust Mbappe's judgement. Of course people will be worried about the power he's had in Ligue 1 with some controversial communication from him, but Mbappe will want to win no matter what.

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