In his first interview since signing, our new defender Axel Disasi discusses his footballing characteristics, explains why he loves to play the piano, and details his many past and present Chelsea connections…
Axel Disasi is walking around the pitch at his new home, Stamford Bridge. A tall and muscular man, Disasi takes centre stage with 40,000 empty seats around him. He is savouring every moment.
At one stage, the 25-year-old Parisian descends into the Matthew Harding Lower concourse and then heads back up the steps, sampling a fresh perspective of the Bridge. In 10 days, when Liverpool visit, that journey will be replicated by thousands of excited Blues fans. But instead of being in the stands, Disasi could be making his Chelsea debut.
Back pitchside, now, the Frenchman bends his knees and ruffles the pristine green turf he will be showcasing his qualities on before long. He likes what he sees, what he feels. You sense the magnitude of his move to Chelsea is sinking in now.
‘It’s something I’ve been waiting for,’ Disasi acknowledges.
‘I am so happy to be here, at this big club. I am really proud to be able to be a part of this great family, and I hope to achieve very big things here. To win titles. I will do everything I can to achieve those objectives. I am very ambitious.
‘I can’t wait to feel the energy of the fans,’ he continues, now looking out at the pitch from high up in the West Stand. Another perspective to take in.
‘This is a very good stadium, one where you have a beautiful proximity to the fans. A typical English stadium, I think.
‘The fervour of the fans in the Premier League, the atmosphere, the intensity of the games: it is something that excites me.’
The pace and physicality of English football has not passed Disasi by, either, and he believes his attributes are well suited to handle the demands of what lies next in his career.
‘I’m a defender who likes to properly look for the ball and win it back,’ he states. ‘The best way of anticipating the opposition player’s move is by being in the best position possible.
‘I like to have the ball at my feet and play passes. I like interceptions, and I like to be aggressive with the opposition, to use my physicality.
‘When I was younger, I started as an attacker. When I got bigger, I moved back. As a professional I have played left-back, right or left centre-back or in a three, and with the national team at the World Cup at right-back.
‘I like full-back too because it allows me to play more with the ball. I like to be offensively minded, and I can score goals.’
Twelve in three seasons at Monaco is proof of that, none more spectacular than an injury-time winner away to Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League earlier this year.
Part of the reason for Disasi’s success in front of goal in the Principality was his availability. He did not miss a single game through injury; indeed, the same goes for his entire professional career. He puts that remarkable record down to both his own forensic preparation, and the weight he gives to the advice coaches and medical staff pass on.
Off the pitch, Disasi says he highly values the community feel a sports team offers. He also places great importance in having time to himself, away from the weird and wonderful world of football. It is why, a few years ago, he took up a musical instrument.
‘I started playing the piano when I was at Reims, my club before Monaco, when I was going through a difficult period. It helped me a lot because it allowed me to think of other things.
‘I like the sound. It’s peaceful and relaxing. I have taught myself, bit by bit. I took a small piano and started watching tutorials on YouTube. Even if there are periods during which I don’t practice too much, I have learned some pieces and that allows me to think of something else.
‘I know it’s sometimes important to clear your head of football, to be able to decompress. To be my best on the pitch I know I need to separate my thoughts.
‘But I am also someone who takes great pleasure in being on the pitch, and with the other players,’ he adds.
‘I want to bring my positive energy to this group, to be happy, to have a laugh with my team-mates. I like to have fun, to joke. It’s important because it’s a young group who are very close and laugh together. I like that a lot.’
Disasi is already familiar with several members of the Chelsea squad. He bumped into his good friends Benoit Badiashile and Wesley Fofana on his first trip to Cobham. He spoke at length on the phone with Christopher Nkunku before joining Chelsea. He came up against Malo Gusto and Thiago Silva in Ligue 1, and of course Mauricio Pochettino, his new coach.
‘It is helpful for adapting to already know these people,’ he underlines. ‘Christopher has also only just arrived. Benoit and Wesley have been here a while, Malo is new. We’re all together now.’
Disasi knows there has long been a Francophone feel to the Chelsea squad. He doesn’t hesitate in reeling off a list of our former Bleus.
‘It’s a club that has been very popular for French players because they have all done well here - Leboeuf, Desailly, Anelka, Kante, Giroud... And the colour is blue like the national team! It’s good.
‘It’s a familiar club for French people, and I hope all the French players here now can join that line of great players.’
And what of his other Chelsea memories growing up?
‘The one that comes straight to my mind when I think about Chelsea matches is the final against Bayern, when Drogba scored that amazing header at the end. I was about 14 and it left an impression on me.
‘I enjoyed watching Hazard, Drogba, Lampard. I liked David Luiz a lot! He was crazy. He was so fun to watch on the pitch and he could shoot from so far out. I like to do that sometimes too! Also, Cesc Fabregas - I played with him for two years in Monaco and he was amazing. Those players stand out.’
Now the work starts in earnest for Disasi. From the clarity and confidence with which he speaks, he has no fear in setting his sights on emulating some of the greats to have worn the blue shirt.