MALOUDA'S FRENCH FOOTBALL FRIEND
Florent Malouda will line up against a firm friend and former international team-mate at PPL Park on Wednesday night, and says Thierry Henry has plenty to offer the MLS.
Henry left Barcelona for the New York Red Bulls in 2010 and has since become an important ambassador for American soccer. For Malouda, it was no surprise when France's record goalscorer of all-time decided to cross the Atlantic.
'Even before he came we knew he really liked New York in particular, so it was not a surprise when he moved across the Atlantic to play for the Red Bulls,' said the Chelsea man.
'Since then he looks happy with his new life and lifestyle in the city. I have seen him a couple of times when he came back and was training with Arsenal, and when we played against Barcelona I went to visit Eric Abidal in hospital and Thierry was there too, so we are still in contact and he is very, very happy.
'I don't think he went there too soon in his career, he had won everything possible in Europe. With Arsenal he is a legend, with the French team he won the World Cup and Euros and is the top scorer of all time.
H'e won the Champions League with Barça, and that's when I think he decided it was time to go. He didn't come to America to retire though, he came to conquer and is still capable of making a difference. He wants to win the MLS title and I think it's a smart choice for him.
'Thierry is a very down to earth character, even with everything he has accomplished in his football career. He really helped me when I started in the national team and is a French legend.'
For Malouda, tonight's game represents another step on the way to full fitness, though the winger admits he is still playing catch-up with those team-mates after his prolonged holiday following international duty.
'I came back a bit late because of the Euros,' he explained. 'I was on holiday in Brazil and came straight to Seattle from Rio. I am still catching up on fitness a little bit, even though it wasn't a long holiday you still need to get back the pace and rhythm to be able to perform for 90 minutes.
'We are all training hard and intensively, but we are still not capable of pressing or playing at a high tempo for long, so there is still work to do to be ready for the beginning of the season.'