Ahead of Chelsea vs Everton this weekend, Florent Malouda opens up on the impact Carlo Ancelotti had on his career, explains why he was surprised to see Frank Lampard move into management so quickly, and ruminates on a goal that wasn't against the Toffees...
Florent Malouda sits down in reception at Cobham, takes off his sunglasses and smiles.
‘Not much has changed!’
In what has been one of the wettest and windiest winters in recent history, our former winger has chosen a surprisingly bright day to return to his old stomping ground. He took note of The Arena on his way in, the vast indoor pitch that opened in 2017, but otherwise Malouda is soon back in the groove navigating the Cobham corridors he called home for a significant chunk of his career. A left-sided player full of guile and grace, he played 229 times for Chelsea, scored 45 goals and won five major trophies.
He is animated and honest throughout our interview, which takes place the day before our FA Cup win over Liverpool. Introduced to the Stamford Bridge crowd at half-time, Malouda receives a hearty reception; later in the night he will join Frank Lampard pitchside as his former team-mate dissects a famous Cup success, the like of which three-time winner Malouda knows all too well. More on that later.
For now, our questioning focuses on Lampard. Did Malouda expect him to make the leap into management?
‘No, not really,’ the Frenchman admits.
‘I never felt it was something he wanted to do at the time. But then what amazed me is that when he made his mind up after retirement it went so quick.
‘He’s an inspiration. I’ve played with him so I have known him as a leader, by everything he was doing on the pitch and in training, his attitude. To see the transfer into a management career is a very good example to follow.’
Malouda will be 40 in June. He is currently a UEFA ambassador, working closely with the president Aleksander Ceferin while studying a masters for former international players (MIP), which includes the building of a football academy in Madagascar. As well as analysing administration and considering coaching badges, Malouda is ‘taking examples’ from former managers and team-mates like Lampard. Few shine as brightly from his career as Carlo Ancelotti, in charge of this weekend’s opponents, Everton, and a natural next topic of conversation.
‘Playing under Carlo was great in terms of results, but also in terms of human experience,’ Malouda explains.
‘He is someone who was very close to the players, and who gave us a lot of trust and confidence. He trusted his experienced players, and in times of high pressure you really felt he was on your side and had your back.
‘At the same time, he was so humble. When you look at his record, as a player and then as a manager, his attitude was very humble, and he was giving us stability when there was pressure around. When you have someone like this leading you it gives you the right balance.
‘Now, to see him meeting Frank, it’s kind of strange! I wouldn’t say father and son, but I know he really trusted Frank and Frank had a great time under him, and developed as a player under Carlo, like all of us. To see Frank starting his management career at this level and for them to meet, it will be special, and emotional for both of them. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes during the game, and how they manage their emotions.’
Malouda was an integral part of Ancelotti’s Double-winning side of 2009/10. He netted 15 goals in all competitions and assisted a further 12 in the league, including a run and cross which Joe Cole back-heeled over the line against Manchester United as we beat our title rivals 2-1 at Old Trafford. He was named the Chelsea Players' Player of the Year.
‘I think it was maybe not my best season at Chelsea, but the one I improved the most,’ he reflects a decade on.
‘Year after year I improved, but that season I got to a whole different level. It was like I was restricted to a role and then Carlo opened up the doors for me, so I took more responsibility and people were like: ‘wow, he is able to do it’.
‘Carlo is someone who will find a way to improve a team however good they are. It was the same for individuals. He managed to get the best out of us. He gave me a lot.
‘Even afterwards when we met and he was at Paris Saint-Germain, we still had the same relationship,’ adds Malouda. ‘I know he’s someone I can count on. That’s how you always feel with Carlo. He is someone who will always support you, and take nothing out of you. What he has he will give you and share with you. You always feel welcome with Carlo and that’s a very good feeling.
‘Every player he managed, not only at Chelsea but I’ve had feedback from other clubs as well, they know he is a reliable source of information and knowledge. It’s good to count on people like him. For everything we are trying to do after our playing career, this is the kind of person who can support you.’
A meeting with Everton brings up memories not only of Ancelotti, who will be on the touchline at Stamford Bridge despite his red card last weekend, but also the 2009 FA Cup final, perhaps our biggest one-off encounter with the Merseysiders.
It was our final game before the Italian’s arrival, and one of Malouda’s best in a Chelsea shirt. We won 2-1, and not only did he assist Didier Drogba’s equaliser with a teasing cross, he would have also had a stunning strike of his own to look back on were goal-line technology in place.
‘We loved to play at Wembley, maybe because we had that experience, but we all had a great feeling about the atmosphere and we really felt we were ready. But then the game started and we conceded an early goal, like a cold shower.
‘We had a really relaxed reaction to that goal. We were still confident. The scenario of the game from that point was us starting to build our win. We had no rush, we knew how to manage the Everton team, and we stuck to the game-plan even though we conceded a goal. That’s how we built up the equaliser of Didier. Then we carried on playing the same way. We weren’t cautious about getting caught on the counter-attack.
‘We really played with personality. I remember Frank’s goal, left foot, top corner. It felt good, and the celebration with Guus Hiddink afterwards. It was a great memory.
‘For my shot I remember I was a bit tired,’ continues Malouda. ‘I don’t know how I got the ball, but sometimes you are fed up and you just want to explode the ball! I was too far away to tell if it was in. There was no VAR. Afterwards, when I saw the goal, I was a bit annoyed. That would have been the best goal of my life!’
On Tuesday night, after a helter-skelter Cup classic, Malouda and Lampard joked about that strike (above), along with the famous ‘goal’ that wasn’t by Lampard for England in Bloemfontein the following summer, one which accelerated the implementation of goal-line technology.
Then it’s time for Lampard to start turning his attention to the visit of Everton, and a maiden managerial meeting with Ancelotti. Malouda, meanwhile, will have more than a passing interest in how Sunday’s game unfolds.
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