As Official Timekeeper of the Manchester United team, TAG Heuer presented the two versions of TAG Heuer Red Devil watches over the weekend with Manchester United legends; Denis Irwin and Louis Saha. Mitrajit Bhattacharya caught up with Louis Saha on the sidelines of the live screening of United vs Burnley match at the Royal Western Turf Club, Mumbai. Excerpts from the interview:
Do you think United can still win the Premier League this year?
Yeah, the title is still possible. But it’s going to be really up to Man City to draw points, pretty much three, four games minimum to have a chance. But yes, it’s going to be tough.
Who has been your favourite footballer ever for:
Zidane, of course.
And the world?
Which do you think has been the best Manchester United team in history?
It’s up to the fans to really say, but for me, I participated in one era, which was really successful. Maybe the bunch of ’99 was a bit more special in a way.
Who are your favourites for this year’s World Cup to be held in Russia?
I would love to say that France has got a big chance. And I do think that Spain, Germany like always pack a surprise during the World Cup. Who knows, maybe Belgium!
So you think it will be a European nation winning it?
No. I see Brazil as well.
Moving on, do tell us something about Sir Alex’s coaching style….
The “why” of his success is because of the way he used to deal with youth as well as the ones who were successful. With experienced players, he would speak to them in a way that would make sure that they were always under pressure but confident enough to try and take the responsibility. And at the same time, he always innovated because he always took coaches that were able to adapt to certain style, which would continuously change over the years, in fact, he managed that really well. Understand that one successful team may not win the same way, so he had to change several programs because the personnel were not the same. He understood and adapted well. He was a genius.
He was good even in spotting talent, meaning young talent…
Yeah, in a way. Spotting talent is one thing; you can have a certain feel about a player. But no matter how talented the player is, you still have to understand how to work really hard to make the talent work. And one needs to be really consistent under pressure. Each player has a different way of working and he understood that.
Among the current crop of footballers, who is your favourite?
If you look at the football world right now; there are two immensely talented players who have won most of the Ballon d’Or trophies over the past 10 years; Messi, of course, is someone that you look up to, the brilliant movement that he has in his game. But Ronaldo for me is a bit ahead, because physically what he is able to sustain is just ‘inhuman’.
Any upcoming footballer who you feel is a superstar of tomorrow?
I think Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
But Neymar is already a big star…
Yeah, but I mean he still can win the Ballon d’Or.
Having played most of your career in the Premier League, what according to you makes the league so special?
It’s because the players come to England with a very specific goal of winning; they come with killing instincts.The league is very intense, demanding and pretty much all the teams want to win.
Well, do you like watches?
I do, yeah.
And what do you think of TAG Heuer as a brand?
Yeah, I love them, particularly the Modular 45 and few more.
So what has been your experience in Mumbai so far? Have you tried out anything local?
Yes, the food of course. And I have enjoyed it.