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Full transcript: Olivier Dacourt speaks to 101 Great Goals

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Full transcript: Olivier Dacourt speaks to 101 Great Goals

For those of a certain age, Olivier Dacourt will be remembered fondly for his all action midfield tendencies, gracing the midfield of Leeds United and Everton in the Premier League, as well as stints abroad with Roma, AC Milan and Belgian side Standard Leige.

Olivier Dacourt played his best Premier League football for Leeds

Olivier Dacourt played his best Premier League football for Leeds (Jamie McDonald /Allsport)

The French midfielder, who also turned out for his country alongside the likes of Lilian Thuram, Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka, made over 100 Premier League appearances across five seasons in the Premier League, netting five times in the process.

Although his Leeds career was somewhat marred by controversy – he was loaned out in disgrace following a fallout with the manager at the time Terry Venables – he is still remembered fondly by the Yorkshire side’s fanbase, with many suggesting he is one of the best midfielders the club have been graced with.

And now, sitting down with 101 Great Goals before the departure of Rafa Benitez at Everton, he discusses the future of compatriot Paul Pogba, the Toffees, and whether he believes Leeds United will beat the drop.

Should Paul Pogba sign a new deal at Old Trafford or is now the best time to depart Manchester United? Should he join PSG?

“Manchester United are one of the biggest teams in the world. But when you play so many years for one club, sometimes you need a change to progress as a footballer. You get into bad habits, do the same things over and over again and can end up just going through the motions.

“If decides to leave Manchester United to match his ambitions and to progress as a footballer, he needs to join a big club who can give him a real challenge. You wouldn’t leave United to go to a historically smaller level club.”

There are rumours he could join PSG, your thoughts on that? 

“I’m not sure. These days every player wants to join PSG as they’ve got the money, they’ve got the ambition, they’ve got the ability to realistically win the Champions League. PSG can’t sign everyone though, so I’m not sure he’s on their radar.”

What do you make of Roma’s loan signing of Ainsley Maitland-Niles from Arsenal? What do you think Maitland-Niles will bring to this Roma side?

“It will be the first time playing abroad in a foreign league for him. I’m not sure he can speak Italian yet and so that alone will be difficult but Jose Mourinho wanted him which is a huge compliment on his overall ability and versatility. Ainsley is young, he’ll learn a huge amount from Mourinho and the experience in a foreign league will make him a much better player when he returns.

Who do you believe is the perfect partner for Raphael Varane at Man Utd?

“It’s tricky to answer, it often depends on chemistry which you don’t find out until you train and play together. You can have two great players on paper, but it might not work out. The perfect partner is someone who you don’t need to speak with and you just have an understanding.

“When I played with Eirik Bakke, he would go forward and I would stay – I just knew that. But with David Batty I knew he would stay back, so I would go forward. Ultimately, you need to adapt yourself to your teammates and I’m not sure Varane has that understanding with his current United teammates yet. Chemistry is so important in the recruitment process.”

Everton fans have never taken to Rafa Benitez, is there any way he can win them over?

“When you speak about Rafa Benitez, you think of Liverpool. He won them the biggest trophy in club football! What do you expect from the Everton fans? Even though he came here many years after being at Liverpool, it’s still Liverpool and the success he brought them that he’s known for.

“It reminds me of the situation I had at Everton, Gerard Houllier asked me would I sign for Liverpool. I said, ‘No way!! Not possible, I cannot’, because even though it’s a job, you cannot cross that boundary – it’s not right.

“Maybe I’m too romantic, my point of view is, him being at Everton after managing Liverpool is too big an obstacle to overcome for the fans.”

Leeds are embroiled in a relegation battle, do you think they have enough quality to get beat the drop?

“Yes absolutely, they have the quality and ability to adapt and survive. Last year, everybody watched them go forwards spending so much energy attacking and they conceded so many goals.

“Now they are actually better, they start to think more. They’ve got the quality, but the Premier League is a very difficult league that becomes harder to compete in every season. They’ve got the quality and when their injured players come back, the results will come.”

Regardless of whether Leeds stay up, do you believe that Marcelo Bielsa will leave at the end of the season?

“He’s been in Leeds for three years, he’s never spent so much time at one club, which is a positive sign. Ultimately, you never know what’s going on in someone’s head but I think we’ll know either way after the World Cup.”

Would Kalvin Phillips get in the great Leeds team you played in? Would you like to have played alongside him? Can Leeds keep hold of Kalvin or do you see him moving elsewhere?

“Kalvin is a very good player, but I was lucky to play with big, big players. You cannot compare this Leeds United team to the one I played in. We played in the Premier League at the top level, we played in the Champions League, FA Cup – David Batty was unbelievable, Eirik Bakke was amazing too.

“Football is a lot faster now than when I played so it’s very hard to compare the squads. Kalvin is a great player though and I think Leeds will keep hold of him for at least another season.”

What have you made of Mourinho’s move to Roma? Do you think it’s working? How did you find working with Mourinho at Inter? How big a club can Roma be? What has been holding them back these past years? 

“It’s difficult in Rome. It’s the worst place for a coach, it’s very, very difficult. You have so many radio stations, magazines, papers, TV shows about football – everybody talks about the sport all the time. There’s already a huge amount of pressure for him wherever he goes, but even more so now being in Rome.

“However, with Serie A more open than in previous seasons, he’s got a chance. Juventus aren’t what they were and even though the competition from the likes of Inter, Milan, Napoli, Atalanta is strong, he can definitely get results at the club.”

Given the performance of the youngsters at PSG, are they a real competition for some players like Herrera or Paredes? 

“It’s a balancing act really. PSG have spent so much on their first team but they’ve also invested in their academy. From what I’ve seen, when the youngsters play, they play very well, but they need to be around the first-team consistently to develop into their full potential.

“The coach needs to see real footballing ability that will get the team results. The owners will want to see their investment in the academy paying off with performances on the pitch. There’ll be more pressure to play the academy players as time goes on.

“Look at Manchester United, they have so many from the academy playing in the first team and they’ve signed some big-name players – I think it’s the perfect combination for a football club, a mix of academy players and top signings.”

Is PSG’s main problem in midfield?

“Every year, it’s always the same problem for PSG. Because it’s so easy for them in the league, when they play in the Champions League, they often struggle against the bigger teams and pick up injuries with the likes of Neymar. It’s not his fault, but every year he’s always injured around the same time of the season.

“PSG with Neymar and without Neymar are two different teams. They aren’t the same. They’ve brought Messi into the team, and with Neymar, Messi and Mbappe together they are unbelievable. If they can keep Neymar fit, they’ll go far – injuries to him are their biggest problem.”

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Aminat Aigbe

Aminat Aigbe is the first lady of afronaija and a very good blogger ( Original Mrs AfroNaija )

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