Saha: I had to stand up to Fulham to seal move
Louis Saha claims he has no regrets about the dramatic transfer saga that saw him leave Fulham to join Manchester United in January 2004.
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“They [Fulham] played it as 'it's a business world',”remembers Louis.
“So some price was agreed, and I knew about it, and my agent was saying to me that they wanted to increase the price to make the most of it.
“So I let it go, but at some point, where you feel this opportunity will go because it's a January transfer [and] you see the clock ticking, you stand and say: 'No, they [United] will take somebody else and I don't want this to happen.'
“So I gave my word in some ways, they gave their words, and I said: 'No, that's not how it works.' If you say something, you keep your word, and I was really unhappy about the situation. Even if I'm professional, I express it. I have the right to speak and say: 'No, I want to go.'
“So I did what I think was the right thing, because everybody in this world, if you have a job opportunity somewhere else and there is no judgement, then you can go, you know, even [to the] competition. Sport's a bit more difficult. They used the public [to apply pressure]. But at the end of the day I knew I'd been really honest, I'd given my all, I'd helped them to promotion, so I had no difficulty to actually go where I thought was fair.”
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“A few phone calls came from [former Fulham player] John Collins, and Mikael Silvestre said to me that the club is looking after you, they are looking at your performances.
“But during that time I had one or two injuries that slowed down the process. So for that I knew that I needed to be a bit more consistent. When you receive the call from the boss [Sir Alex Ferguson], you think how natural it is, because you think that you've been doing well and that's why. But until you're really on the train or on the plane to go to Manchester you [don't] realise that the thing is going to happen.”
“I was at home,”laughs our one-time no.9.
“Did I know the phone call was coming? Yes. My agent [told me]. It was a bit strange because you still doubt – maybe it's a joke or something like this! So you are a bit careful about the accent!
“Then you say: 'Okay, this seems for sure.' It was nice because obviously it was concrete. The way he talks, you really have that voice where – even if you only understand half of it – it reassures you. You feel like part of his plan; part of what he's really looking for for, not years, but he's saying that 'I like your style' and makes you feel like you're going to embed straight away to his team.
“I was seeing the players they had already, and seeing how I can fit, how I can actually be different and create those solutions for him. I see straight away that I was completely different [to the other players]. I had the aggressiveness in some ways, I had the different solution, and that's why I felt very confident to go there. But at the same time, the amount of pressure as well... you have to be very naive in some ways to go there and not be feeling it. Because if you are conscious about it, that's where pressure comes.”
“The speculation is not going to go away – I understand that. From our point of view, if we sell Louis Saha at any price in January then I'm cutting my own throat. I've explained that to my chairman and he is under the same impression. I'm under no illusions – he may not be here next season. He's banging in goals left, right and centre so, if a club does come in for him with a massive offer over the summer, then he may move on. But we'd be committing suicide if we sold him right now.”
“Three years ago he played against us in the FA Cup and did very well and that is when our interest began. When Fulham came into the Premiership it was impossible to do any business at that point but we kept looking at him and this year we decided to make an offer. That was refused but it started the negotiations and we are delighted that we have been able to secure his transfer. Louis has two good feet, he is very quick and aggressive and is good in the air. They are great assets to have and a little bit different from the players we have at the moment.”