Cosmopolitan Leboeuf backs United States for World Cup glory

The ex-international-turned-actor lets FourFourTwo's Jermaine Tan in on how America are planning global domination, the French being dark horses at the next tournament, and why he's gotten over FIFA's decision to organise a winter World Cup.

He was a World Cup winner and European champion with France, and he spent five years performing at top level with Chelsea. But when his career ended, Frank Leboeuf began transferring his performances from the big stage, to the big screen. The 47-year-old former defender starred in five movies – most notably as a doctor in the Oscar-winning movie ‘The Theory of Everything’ – with a further two titles set to be released in 2015.

He was in Singapore recently to mingle with Chelsea fans at a special Live screening of their match against Arsenal organised by Tiger Beer. In between signing autographs and taking pictures with elated fans at The Jockey Club, Leboeuf found time for a chat with FourFourTwo to discuss his beloved Blues, and talk up the prospects of major silverware for France and the United States in the near future.

Jose Mourinho looks set to win another title with Chelsea. What sets him apart from other managers and what is his formula for success?

Mourinho takes time to listen to his players. When he was assistant coach at Barcelona, he in turn listened to experienced people, learning the ropes in coaching, which helped him develop ideas for playing good football.

He is an individual who knows how to manage his team; even substitutes were happy to play under him. It happened at Porto, Inter and Real Madrid. Even now at Chelsea, we don’t hear of any unhappy players who are on the bench.

He has the psychological draw to make players understand they work for the best. And when you’re that successful, you’re always right. People say Chelsea are boring, but boring Chelsea are now ten points ahead in top spot, so I guess Mourinho knows what it takes to be successful.

You've also had a brief spell playing in the US, and this seems to be the trend with many players like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard heading to America. Why is this so?

What America is trying to do is start football academies so that they might win the World Cup in ten years.

I think that in the modern world, money talks. In America, they have the financial draw to make big stars come and finish their careers. Clubs in Qatar have attempted to do that too. What America is trying to do is start their football with young players coming through the academies, so that they might win the World Cup in ten years.

They have a good national team which is getting better, and Jurgen Klinsmann is to thank for that.  It is good publicity to bring Lampard and Gerrard there to help the young and experienced players get better by training beside them. However, these youngsters are not at the peak of their careers yet, so their performances may not always be the best.

You've had a brief spell playing in the Middle East, and there has been a huge debate surrounding the 2020 World Cup in Qatar. What do you think of FIFA's decision to move the tournament to December?

They don’t have a choice [other than to play in winter]. I played for two years in Qatar, and it’s nearly impossible to play in summer. So, of course, it has to be played in December. Obviously, you will have a problem in England with the traditional Boxing Day fixtures, but in France all the pitches will be in terrible condition.

Gus Poyet, a former Chelsea team-mate of yours, had to endure a disappointing start to his managerial career in the Premier League and was eventually sacked by Sunderland. What was Gus like as a player and why do you think he struggled with Sunderland?

I guess he’s not the only one who’s struggled with Sunderland! Roy Keane was in charge at some point, and he was struggling as well. Gus was a real leader in the team and he always brought something special to the dressing room. Sometimes, as a manager, you try your best and you have a certain way to see football, but it doesn’t match with the players you have.

Gus still saved Sunderland from relegation last season. He did a good job last year, but it wasn’t enough this year. Sunderland are still struggling, even without him. It’s easy for the board to just sack a coach, but I feel that the responsibility should be shared amongst everyone in the club, including the players.

It will have been 18 years since France hosted a big tournament [World Cup 1998], which they then went on to win. But next year France will host one again, in the form of Euro 2016. What are your thoughts on your country’s chances this time around?

Of course Germany and Spain would be favourites at Euro 2016, but France can surprise people.

We’re very optimistic about our chances. The last two times that we hosted a tournament, we won them, so hopefully it’s going to happen for the third time. Of course Germany and Spain would be favourites, but we can surprise people. I’m very fond of [France’s coach] Didier Deschamps; he’s a good friend of mine and he’s doing a great job.

You’re also an actor on stage and in the movies. Any plans for your next movie?

Appearing in one is difficult right now, but I’ve studied several script proposals for several American, English and French movies while here in Singapore. You won’t see me on screen for another two years though, because I’m in the middle of real success with my current stage play.

Frank Leboeuf was a surprise guest at a Live Chelsea match screening thanks to Tiger Beer, who helped fans uncage by giving them the opportunity to interact with one of their club's icons.

- Interview Jermaine Tan Photos Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore -