Interviews

Moussa Sissoko: 'It would be awesome to win the Trophée des Champions'

Moussa Sissoko: 'It would be awesome to win the Trophée des Champions'

Interviews
Publish on 07/27 at 10:00

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FC Nantes' star recruit Moussa Sissoko talks about his return to Ligue 1 Uber Eats and looks ahead to season curtain-raiser the Trophée des Champions against Paris Saint-Germain, scheduled for Sunday (20:00) in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Moussa, was it your priority to return to Ligue 1 Uber Eats this summer?
"In my head, it was clear, I wanted to return to France sooner or later. I left Ligue 1 Uber Eats at a young age, I was 23, so I always told myself that I would come back. I want to give back to the French league what it gave me because it allowed me to be the player I am today. FC Nantes' project appealed to me and convinced me, that's why I agreed to come back."

What motivated you to join FC Nantes?
"First of all, it was the discussion I had with the president and the coach. They showed a real desire to see me join the club. That's the most important thing. After that, I saw the club's very good season last year, whether in Ligue 1 or in the Coupe de France, with a good squad and very good young players. Then, historically, Nantes is one of the great French clubs. It's a mixture of all that which convinced me to sign here."

Your arrival has generated a lot of excitement. How has it been for you?
"It's flattering. It's always nice to see that you're wanted. Since I arrived, when I go out in the city, there are many people who thank me for coming. But the most important thing for me is to remain the man I am and not to put pressure on myself. I know that there will be expectations given my career and the fact that I am a French international, which are quite legitimate. I come here with the desire to bring my qualities to the service of the team, to share my experience and to always learn. I hope that we settle in quickly and that we succeed in having a great season together."

The squad seems to be very united since last season and its Coupe de France title. How is your integration going?
"Very well! From my first day at the club, the players and the technical staff have been cool with me. After that, I'm lucky enough to know Charles Traoré well, because we come from the same neighbourhood, and Kader Bamba, whom I met at Toulouse. It's a squad that gets along well, just like last season. But I think that this cohesion is due to the previous season, when the club played for survival before saving itself in the play-offs. That difficult period brought the squad together and contributed to last year's results. I hope with all my heart that we will continue on this path, because we will have some great matches to play between the championship, the Europa League and the Coupe de France."

'I will do everything I can to share my experience'

Did you also feel a certain expectation from your team-mates?

"[He reflects.] You'd have to ask them. But I saw that the squad was happy that I was coming, and some of them also asked me questions. That's also what made it easier for me to integrate because I saw that they were happy about my arrival. And on their side, they saw that I'm a simple person, who doesn't take things too seriously, who likes to have fun, whether it's with the youngest or the oldest."

Have you ever given advice to your teammates?
"On the pitch, I sometimes give advice naturally. Afterwards, because of my experience, I try to help them and respond to their requests but, sometimes, the coach may have a different answer. I give my vision based on what I have seen abroad and with the national team, without thinking I'm the coach and positioning myself above the other players."

Do you have an example?
"I don't like to give details [laughs]. Well, for example, during a training session, I had a little discussion with Robin Voisine about marking. We talked about the moment when you have to change players, I told him that we should try not to cross each other and always be in communication to defend more easily. These are small things that can be very important during matches. Communication is very important, it can make the difference."

Antoine Kombouaré expects a lot from you in the dressing room. How can your experience of the very highest level be valuable for the squad?
"I was lucky enough, and I hope to be lucky again, to play a lot of games with the national team, a lot of Champions League games, to play at the top of the table with Tottenham, to be with great players and to be coached by great coaches, so I saw a bit of everything and I learned a lot. I'm coming back to France with a lot more experience and a lot more life. All that I have experienced, be it in good times or even in difficult times, I will be able to share it. And even if the team only retains one or two per cent of it, I think, and I hope, that it can help them progress. I'm going to do everything I can to share my experience in the best way possible. Afterwards, the truth will be on the field. It's all very well to talk and try to give the best advice, but the most important thing is to give it your all, to fight and do everything to be stronger than your opponent."

'I want to set myself a goal target'

You spent almost ten seasons in England. Where did you learn the most in the Premier League?

"It's the intensity of the games. It's really non-stop, box to box, for 90 minutes. Before I went there, I saw the games on TV, but I can tell you that on the pitch it's even more intense, I really experienced it when I stayed for almost ten years. I really made the right choice when I went to England, because it's a league that is made for my qualities. And I think that's why I succeeded there. It's not an easy league, you see a lot of players going there and having difficulties, but I was lucky enough to like it and to perform well. Afterwards, I had some less good seasons, which happens, but I only remember the positive things from my ten years. It's been a wonderful ten years for me."

Do you know how you will be used by Antoine Kombouaré this season?
"Yes and no. We had a short discussion with the coach. Afterwards, during my presentation, he said he wanted me to play as a No.8 and, personally, that's my preferred position. But in the past, I have also played in front of the defence or on the right side. In any case, even if I have a preference for the centre as a No.8, I will do what the coach asks of me. I am a player at the service of the team because I have to adapt to tactical changes, to an idea from the coach or to a specific game plan for this or that reason. It's up to the coach to see. If he decides to put me in a position, I know it will be for a specific reason."

Would you enjoy playing alongside Pedro Chirivella?
"I have no problem playing with two midfielders. One always stays in the middle to keep the balance, while the other is free and can move forward. I'm ready to take on this second role. After that, I don't know if I'll be lined up with Pedro, there will be several candidates in the middle. There is Samuel Moutoussamy, the young Lohann Doucet and Mohamed Achi. There will be rotation. We will have to know how to build a good relationship with each pair. Now, if I play with Pedro, I think we are complementary. He's more of a ball player who stays in front of the defence, while I'm a player who projects more, who makes an impact getting forward. It's something that can work well. But it doesn't matter which pair is in the middle or whether it's a two or three-man system, the most important thing will be to perform well together."

This combination has already allowed you to get forward during the pre-season...
"It's true that when I was paired with Pedro, it went well. We can communicate well. It's always nice to play with a player with such technical ability. He's the one who creates the game, so it allows me to be a little more focused on the front, to try to bring something extra for the strikers, to be a support and to be in the danger zone. I don't hide it, I like to score. In the last few seasons, I've been a little less decisive but, this year, I want to set myself a goal target. If we are good collectively and I can also contribute a certain number of goals or assists, it will be even more rewarding."

'PSG have really changed dimension'

Which players have particularly surprised you since your arrival at FC Nantes?
"This is a very good squad! Ludovic Blas is a very big player, very strong technically, Marcus Coco too and, as I said before, Pedro Chirivella has a great technical ability. There is also Alban Lafont in goals, who is, in my opinion, close to the doors of the French team. I almost forgot him, because he started his pre-season later than everyone else, but Moses Simon is amazing. In one-on-ones, he is unstoppable. After that, there are young players who are very strong, but we have to give them time. There is really enough to have a very good team."

What are your objectives?
"To have a good season personally and collectively. I want to make a success of my return to France. I hope to bring my experience to the team. And above all I want to enjoy myself on the pitch, to be happy, because we do a great job. Then there's the World Cup coming up at the end of the year, and I'm going to try to do everything I can to be part of the adventure."

This season promises to be exciting for FC Nantes with a Trophée des Champions to win and a return to European competition...
"To have so many events to compete in, as a professional, is what we dream of. The Trophée des Champions is coming up very soon. It's a very beautiful trophy that shouldn't be overlooked. A final is won, not played. I think it can be something great for the club. As far as Europe is concerned, I think that these matches will have a great atmosphere in the stadium. It's going to be something wonderful for the club to experience European nights again. This club and these fans deserve it because of their history. And it's the same: we'll have to play the matches to the full, especially as they always have a special flavour, and do the best we can."

When you left Ligue 1 Uber Eats in January 2013, the PSG project was taking shape with Thiago Motta, Javier Pastore and Zlatan Ibrahimović. How do you see the evolution of this team today?
"PSG have definitely changed dimension. In ten years, they have taken on a whole new dimension. Now they have the best players in the world. I think that all players are now attracted by PSG. I think it's great to have a French club at this level, it's nice to see big stars coming to our league. It helps to raise the level. For the other teams, it's also always more stimulating to play against the best players in the world. Maybe it's harder to get a result, but that's good. When you're a competitor, you aspire to play against a team of this calibre. It's a chance to play against them. After that, they have the objective of winning the Champions League and you can see that even if you have great players, that's not everything. But I hope that in the future they will succeed in doing so to enrich the record of French football. That can only be good for our country."

You have just had a full season with Watford (36 Premier League games). Can we expect Moussa Sissoko to be in full swing as early as the Trophée des Champions?
"It's difficult to say because there were the holidays. After the summer preparation, you are never in the best condition right away. You have to get the machine going again and there's also the heat, there are a lot of things that come into play. In the first match, there is no player who can say that he is at 100%. But I'm doing everything to be in the best conditions to be able to perform well and help the team to win this match. We won't be at our best but neither will PSG. It's a trophy, you have to grab it. Even if it's PSG against us, the club has shown on several occasions that it is possible to get results against this team. We will have to go there strong, solid and confident, even though we know we are playing a European great."

'Important not to be intimidated'

You are familiar with the big games. How should you approach this kind of confrontation?
"Without pressure! In any case, we won't lie to ourselves, on paper they are favourites. It's quite normal. I'm not going to say that we have nothing to lose, because it's a final, but we'll have to play freely. In this type of match, you have to play your game, enjoy the moment and, of course, do everything to win. We have to be sure of our strengths, our qualities, and play on those qualities and not show too much respect to the opponent just because there is Messi, Neymar or someone like that in front of us. It's important not to be intimidated, because there are some games you can lose before you've even played them. You can't focus on the names on the other side, you have to go for it!"

Are you going to have a something particular to say to your teammates?
"I might. After that, it's something spontaneous, you don't prepare it. Depending on what I see in training or before the match, if I feel I have to speak, I will say what I have to say when the time comes. But I'm not the only experienced player either, there are other players in the team who speak up every day. We have to stick together and I think we can do something good."

Can LOSC's victory last season be a source of inspiration?
"On the match itself, it's difficult to say that we'll take inspiration from another team. We have different players. I think we should take inspiration from the way FC Nantes managed to beat PSG last season at La Beaujoire (3-1). Of course, they have a lot of qualities, but they also have weaknesses. We have to play on these weaknesses to hurt them. If the team managed to beat them last year, it was thanks to that. We have to continue with this logic and not necessarily look at what LOSC did, except perhaps in terms of the collective state of mind."

You still haven't won a trophy. Isn't this the best time to change that?
"It would be great! To come back to France and start with a trophy, my first, would be nice. I may have played in a Champions League final in 2019, a Euro final in 2016 and a League Cup final in 2021, but I still haven't had the chance to lift a trophy. Of course there is disappointment, but that's part of the game. I've processed all those finals. It's not because I haven't won a trophy that I feel bad today or that I feel a lack. First of all, when I was a kid, my dream was to become a professional footballer and I managed to achieve it. The rest is just a bonus. But my career isn't over, and if I can pick up a few trophies, it will be with pleasure."

>> PREVIEW: In-form PSG clash with Nantes in Tel Aviv

(Photo credit: FC Nantes)