Former France football star Florent Malouda is aware he is past his prime but still has the mettle to drive Delhi Dynamos to success in the Indian Super League (ISL) this year.
The 36-year-old was one of the key reasons behind Dynamos’ road till the semi-finals last year. And this year the former Chelsea star is back in India again to drive the Dynamos’ midfield — hopefully to better last year’s show.
Dynamos begin their ISL campaign against Chennaiyin FC on Thursday in an away match and it will be the first match under new coach, Italy and Juventus great Zianluca Zambrotta. And for Zambrotta, Malouda is a key cog in the Dynamos wheel.
“I will play more as a central midfielder — it’s same like last year, although the team is very different. We saw better results at the pre-season. I score more than I assist. So, I still have the ability to get into the box,” Malouda told IANS in an interview.
“When I started my career, I played as a winger and sometimes as a striker. Now I will be more of a central defender. ISL is very very different. It will be a good test for us and me, I will play my normal game.”
Dynamos have undergone too many changes in terms of players this year, led by a completely new coaching staff helmed by Zambrotta.
But Malouda, who played 80 matches for France, including the 2006 World Cup final which they lost to Italy, felt they have made it up by a successful performance in the pre-tournament warm-up matches.
They started off their friendlies with a 2-1 victory over Sweden’s Skene IF before going down 0-1 to English Premier League (EPL) outfit West Bromwich Albion.
Their final couple of friendlies were also against Swedish clubs, a 2-2 draw against BK Hacken and a 3-2 win over Assyriska BK.
“Of course always better to carry on the same base. But that is our circumstances. But may be it is easier for the coach to build a new team and a team that he wants,” he said.
“But to have some kind of continuity in ISL is more difficult because some players are still discovering the league and the Indian players also change clubs,” he added.
“Hence, pre-season is very important. It helps to create a structure. We had a good pre-season in Europe. But our performance will determine how strong an unit we have.”
After finishing his time at Chelsea in 2013, Malouda has been changing clubs regularly and feels that after ISL, he hopes to play in Brazil.
“I have always been in the middle of rumours but I never inform anyone about what my decisions in the future will be. I have previously said that I want to play in Brazil, maybe that is why these rumours were made. I make my decisions spontaneously and do not keep them made for the future,” he said.
“I came here because I had met the president of the Delhi Dynamos, Prashant Agarwal, in London where I gave him my word about joining his team. The agreement was signed two months later when I came here in India.”
“I did have offers from other clubs but I didn’t pay any attention to them as I wanted to play in India. But yes, I am open to different choices and I would love to play in Brazil once in my life – maybe in January.”
“But I don’t make plans like this. My focus is on Delhi at the moment. I will give my best at ISL and then look at other options.”