Interviews

The big interview: William Gallas – "I never said I'd score an own goal on purpose. How can you say that?!"

William Gallas
We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

Why were you so adamant about leaving Chelsea, and how did the club respond?
‘Razor’, via Twitter

I left Chelsea for a few reasons. With the board, I wasn't able to reach an agreement about the extension of my contract. I felt that what I’d asked for was quite fair – it wasn’t like I was demanding to be the best earner at the club. I still had one more year remaining on my contract and I said that we'd talk after I came back from the 2006 World Cup in Germany. After the tournament, where I reached the final with France, I went to Guadeloupe to see my family. When I arrived at the airport there, it was full of people. I was quite shocked. Every day people came to my house to ask for me photographs and autographs. I didn’t expect that and at the end of my holiday I was really tired, so I asked Jose Mourinho if I could get a few more days off. But I think the club wanted me to go on their tour to the United States so they could say that they had a player from the World Cup final in their team.

In retrospect, I think that we didn't understand each other. It’s a great pity, as we had the same common goal: to win trophies. But things got even worse for me when my No.13 shirt was given to Michael Ballack

In retrospect, I think that we didn't understand each other. It’s a great pity, as we had the same common goal: to win trophies. But things got even worse for me when my No.13 shirt was given to [Michael] Ballack. I didn’t expect that to happen and that was the moment I felt I couldn’t stay at Chelsea any more. That number had meant a great deal to me. I’d chosen it because I didn’t know in which defensive position I’d play, and I liked it because I’d been told it wasn’t really a number that had been worn by an outfield player at Chelsea before me.

I didn’t know anything about it being an unlucky number, but it suited me and it became an important number for me while I was with the club. It’s a shame how we parted ways, because Jose Mourinho was the manager who gave me the opportunity to become one of the best defenders in the world.

Did you really threaten to score an own goal when you were leaving Chelsea? What did you think about that rumour and why do you think it surfaced? And did you ever speak to anyone at the club to complain about the story being published?
Tobi Wordsmith Osho, via Facebook

I never said I would score an own goal. How can you say that?! I think it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Maybe at this time the people at the club tried to find a way to blame me for what was happening, because all of the supporters wanted me to stay. If I play football, I play with my heart. I have always played at 100 per cent.

Did you have to move house when you joined Arsenal from Chelsea? I can’t imagine you being keen on spending hours stuck on the M25!
Robin Durden, vai Facebook

In my first season at Arsenal I stayed in my house near Wimbledon. But that was indeed a long drive to the training ground – between 45 minutes and an hour. During that year my first son was born, so sometimes I didn’t sleep very well. My body was tired and, around October, I got this groin problem which put me out for almost three months – maybe that was partly down to all the driving? Later, I moved nearer Hampstead, from where it only took me something like 25 to 30 minutes to get to training.

How did you feel about taking the No.10 shirt that Dennis Bergkamp used to wear? Why that number?
Jamie Berger, Luton

At Arsenal I wanted to wear the No.13, but it was already taken by Aleksandr Hleb. The No.3 was available – because Ashley Cole had just left – but I chose No.10. I saw it as a great opportunity as I’d already worn the same number earlier in my career, and my daughter had been born on November 10. At the same time it was good for Arsenal that I wore that number. If a young player is given the No.10 shirt, it’ll be far too much pressure on his shoulders. But to me, it didn’t make any difference at all.

Who’d you pick to win a fight between Wenger and Mourinho?
Pete Davies, Norwich

I don’t know. I don’t know exactly what happened between those two, but sometimes I think it is important to move on and forget about whatever happened in the past.

What was your favourite memory during your time with Arsenal?
Danny Smith, London

[Thinks long and hard] I would say that my best memory at Arsenal is actually my first game against Middlesbrough. Because I’d arrived from Chelsea, the supporters will normally boo you. But when I was out on the pitch during the warm-up, they all applauded me. That was really nice – I didn't expect that.

CLUBS

  • 1995-97 Caen
  • 1997-2001 Marseille
  • 2001-06 Chelsea
  • 2006-10 Arsenal
  • 2010-13 Tottenham
  • 2013-14 Perth Glory

What exactly was going through your mind that afternoon at Birmingham in 2008? Had Eduardo’s terrible leg injury affected your state of mind? And do you regret losing your cool?
Ben Moss, Essex

I was too emotional. You always learn from your mistakes. Eduardo’s injury wasn’t part of that, it was just because we had dropped two points at the end of the match as we hadn't kept our focus. Sometimes you need to show that passion. You can’t just keep saying, ‘Oh well, don’t worry.’ But it didn’t work and that's why we ended up in fourth place, as we weren't strong. But yeah, maybe I lost my head with what I did.

How did you feel when Wenger chose to take the captaincy away from you?
Aaron Lucas, via Facebook

I felt it wasn’t very fair at the time, but in hindsight it was the best thing to do. Some people didn't want me to wear the armband anymore, so maybe the manager thought there was a bit too much pressure on my shoulders and I was being too passionate about my role as the captain. It happened after I’d given an interview in which my words about dressing room unrest got twisted, and I was portrayed as a bad captain.

Did Chelsea have something mentally that Arsenal didn’t, in terms of being able to last the pace in the title race?
Greg Skinner, via Facebook

You need experienced players who have got the right personality. The average age of the Chelsea team I played in was higher than it was at Arsenal when I moved there. It makes a difference, and that’s maybe still the case with the two clubs even now. The game isn’t just about being able to play nice football, it’s also about being prepared to fight.

Having moved from Chelsea to Arsenal and got a lot of stick, did you think twice before moving from Arsenal to Spurs in 2010?
Lee Matthews, Cambridge

No, not really. I could have gone to Paris Saint-Germain as well, but because of my family I didn’t want to go to another country. After one year at Spurs I had a chance to go to Juventus but I chose to stay for my family once again. Another reason was that Spurs offered me a two-year contract extension after I'd initially signed there for just the one season.

William, your performance for Spurs at Arsenal in 2010-11 was incredible! That was your first match as Spurs’ captain, too. Did it feel weird wearing the armband against a former club and your new north London rivals?
Ben King, via email

I knew it would be a difficult situation, both for the fans of Arsenal and for me as well, because I’d been the captain at Arsenal for 18 months. Before we went over to the Emirates, I remember that we all gathered for breakfast at White Hart Lane. When I arrived at the club, people showed me some newspapers, which claimed that an Arsenal player would refuse to shake my hand. Later on, Harry Redknapp came over to see me when we were getting ready in the dressing room and asked me about it.

I said that it was no problem for me, to which he replied, “You know what, I think we’ll do something to make the game even more electric.” I said, “What do you mean, Harry?” And he said, “You’ll be my captain today.” Everyone was very surprised when they saw I was the first to come out of the tunnel. But that game went very well [Spurs won 3-2] and I had a good display.

I got the feeling you weren’t as happy during Andre Villas-Boas’s time as Spurs boss than you were under Redknapp – was that the case?
Patrick Daniels, via Twitter

Yes. At the start everything was fine. I knew Andre from his first spell at Chelsea when he worked under Jose Mourinho as a scout. I picked up an injury near Christmas during that first season when Andre was at Tottenham. I went back to France to get some treatment, but when I came back to London something seemed to have changed. When I recovered he initially said it would be good for me to play in the FA Cup against Leeds, but later on he changed his mind. I had a meeting with him where he told me his decision. I still assumed that I would travel with the squad to Leeds, but just when I was ready to go, I thought, ‘Hold on William, just check the squad list, as you never know.’ And my name wasn’t even there!

I realised I was lucky I didn’t get on the team bus, as that would have been so embarrassing. Andre hadn’t told me. In one of our meetings he said he needed me in the second half of the season, but from then onwards I more or less only played in Europa League games. Maybe he thought I was too old – and I would have understood it – but I didn’t get an explanation. So that made me pretty unhappy. In football, I like a manager who is honest with his players. All of this doesn’t mean Villas-Boas is not an honest manager, of course, but in that moment he was not honest with me.

Be honest, William. Which club did you prefer: Chelsea, Arsenal or Spurs?
Georges Lefurgey, via email