Louis Saha on Ronaldo: He’ll drive the players that need confidence

In the midst of a busy transfer window for the English Premier League clubs, BonusCodeBets caught up with former Premier League star, Luis Saha. The Frenchman gave his verdict on the transfer activities of some of his former clubs, such as Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham and Newcastle.

Here’s what he had to say.

Manchester United have reportedly agreed deals for Tyrell Malacia and Frenkie de Jong – how excited are you by those signings?

They’re great [possible] signings because people were saying Man United were behind with transfers, so it’s showing things are definitely moving in the right direction. At the same time, it’s more about the profile of the players. The manager knows these players really well, so it’ll help with their integration. He needs players that he knows can work, so even if those players don’t know the Premier League too well, it’s helpful for the manager. They’d be great signings. In his plans, those two players fit well with his mentality.


Under Ten Hag, Man United appear to be targeting several Dutch and Eredivisie players, are you a fan of that approach or do they need to go for players playing in more competitive leagues? Like the Bundesliga, LaLiga and the Premier League

It could help when you have players from those kinds of leagues. There is the physical aspect of the Premier League, and they [the linked players] are more technical players with flair – that’s their style and they shouldn’t change. They’ll have to adapt because every player at this level needs to do that. We’ve seen it with Kevin De Bruyne – I don’t think his physical aspect was understood at first, but when his stamina was established, his technical flair stood out. It’s not about just being physical, it’s more about the discipline, the intensity, how much you want it more than the opposition. If you have a manager who knows how to get 200 per cent from you, that’s the main thing. Those players are that type and it’s very important for the manager to add those qualities. Maybe in future transfer windows he’ll change his strategy, but in this one, it’s a very smart approach.


What does signing a left-back like Tyrell Malacia mean for Luke Shaw’s starting place?

It’ll be very interesting. It’s the new standard that this club needs, having quality in every position [is necessary]. The only position you don’t need that in is with your goalkeepers. It’s not good to have two No.1 goalkeepers. It seems to disrupt one and another. The other positions are straight forward, you need competition. Having someone who can challenge you every week is important. The standard of the club will improve because of that.

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Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal warned right-back Jurrien Timber against joining Man United because he was concerned about his playing time, can you understand United fans’ frustration at Van Gaal for getting involved like that?

He’s not working for Manchester United, so he’s allowed to give advice to his international players. If the player is strong enough to come, he’ll come. If he listens to his national team manager, he’ll do it and it would be better to stay where he is because he might not be a very confident player. It’s the player’s decision, not the national team manager. If he wants to come to Man United, he will be more than welcome.

Cristiano Ronaldo is said to be unhappy at Man United – amid interest from Chelsea and Roma – can you see him leaving Man United this summer?

It could go both ways, no one can guarantee anything apart from Cristiano. He’s the only one to answer that. It wouldn’t be the right move for Man United to let him go because he’s such a big asset. I can definitely see him continuing to keep doing what he’s doing best, which is scoring goals and helping his club get back to where it belongs.


Despite his age, can you see him playing a big role under Ten Hag?

Definitely. Not only by scoring goals, but with his stature. I’m sure the new manager will want to implement some new rules and new standards that fit with Ronaldo. Maybe not so much on the pressing side, but his work ethic and his desire to always be accountable. Performance-wise, Ronaldo is up there with the best, he’ll drive the players that need confidence, like Rashford. It’s a new manager, new rules, new atmosphere and I’m very excited.

It’s going to be a big season for Marcus Rashford, is this season his last chance to prove he’s good enough to play for Man United?

He’s already proved he’s good enough to play for Manchester United. We all know he has the capability to come back to the top – that’s just a matter of time. We don’t want to see Rashford fall into a situation like Dele Alli, it would be very sad. I’m sure he’s got the quality, the full support of the fans, the ex-players and manager, even Ronaldo, to get back to his best. It’s just a matter of discipline and being confident again. When you are at the top level, it’s about discipline and confidence – you have to maintain your work ethic and believe in yourself that it’s going to come around. That’s what Ronaldo has been doing throughout his career, he’s shut down all his critics because he believes in himself. I’m sure Rashford will do that. There’s a World Cup to look forward to and he has every chance to be in that England squad. Whatever happened last season, it’s in the past, I wish him all the best.


Man United and Arsenal are believed to be in the race to sign Youri Tielemans – if you were Tielemans – who would you rather sign for and why?

I’d have to say Man United all day. Tielemans has always been linked with Man United, even when he was at Anderlecht. He’s always had that connection.


Everton duo Anthony Gordon and Richarlison are being heavily linked with moves to Tottenham in a £100m combined deal – would moving to Tottenham represent a step-up in their careers?

At this moment in time, definitely. You see Tottenham’s momentum, being in front of Arsenal, with two amazing players up front, they seem to have this foundation of defending better, especially in big games. Now, Tottenham’s concentration in games is a lot better since Conte’s come in. It would be a great move for Gordon and Richarlison because it’s a joy to see them play when they click up front. Richarlison could form an amazing strike force with Son and Kane.


So far in the transfer window, would you say Tottenham have done the best business out of all the Premier League clubs?

No. So far, the best business has been done by Man City. Haaland was their one missing link, he’s now provided Guardiola with that new solution up front. You can have all the possession, you can press high, but when you need another way of playing, Haaland can be your targetman. He’s also very fast as well. He’s a very good signing. He suits their playing style well. He won’t have any problem adapting physically, so it’ll be really easy having Kevin De Bruyne behind him. I can’t imagine anything will go wrong there.


Aside from trophies, Harry Kane will be gunning for the Premier League Golden Boot – can you see him outscoring Erling Haaland?

Harry Kane and Heung-min Son are contenders for the Golden Boot, but Haaland is the perfect fit for Man City. Haaland is going to score headers, tap-ins, physical goals because Man City are masters in providing the ball to their forwards. So I can’t see any other top scorer than Haaland next season.


Do you think Tottenham will win a trophy under Antonio Conte this season?

Yes. They’ve definitely proved over the years that they’re close to winning a trophy. They’ve been in finals. This is their year. Conte will give them better foundations to win trophies, I have no doubt about that.


Frank Lampard is one of the bookies’ favourites to be the first manager to leave their club this season, is that harsh on him?

It’s harsh. Everton shouldn’t be in the same position that they were last year. The fans need to be humbled by what happened last year. By being in the middle of the Premier League table, it would be a good start. With the current squad, even if they lose Richarlison or other players, they can go into the market and attract any good players.


Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has been linked with Newcastle, and Richarlison could both leave Everton this summer – if they did, could Everton be facing another relegation battle under Lampard?

No. They’re terrific players, but they were in an era where other players and managers have struggled to find a basic foundation for the Goodison Park spirit. What we saw in the final four games of last season from Frank Lampard, he managed to get that kind of spirit, they celebrated staying up like they won the Champions League. The current players won’t want to put themselves in a similar situation. The players that want to go because they have bigger plans, they can go, but the club will remain strong.


What would represent a good season for Everton under Frank Lampard?

It would be great to sit in the middle of the Premier League table, having a sense of being close to the Europa League places. It’s such a big club that they should be thinking like Leicester and upsetting the big four. But from what happened last year, they shouldn’t be expecting to chase the Champions League spots, as much as they’d like that. The fans need to lower their expectations and give more time to the manager. We didn’t have the biggest squad in my days and we based our foundations on hard work and being aggressive and it worked.


Looking at Newcastle’s transfer business so far, do you think they’re ahead of teams like Arsenal and Man United in terms of their planning for the upcoming season?

No, I don’t think so. Nick Pope and Sven Botman are good players, but for clubs who are looking to compete with the big six, they need a big name, a striker, a statement signing. It wouldn’t be very smart for Newcastle, in their first summer with that kind of funding, to go out there and spend the money as they dream. It’s smart to be very cautious because the Premier League is very hard and you can’t overcome in one year what Arsenal, Tottenham and even Leicester have strived for in the last 10 years. I’m sure Newcastle won’t be that arrogant to think they’re smarter than those clubs now. So they need to be cautious with their transfers, but to also build the foundations. It would take two or three years for Newcastle to challenge for the Premier League title and other trophies.

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