Pierre Lees-Melou: 'I've improved in duels and aggression'

Pierre Lees-Melou: 'I've improved in duels and aggression'

Publish on 03/14 at 10:00 - G. BOXALL


Pierre Lees-Melou is the linchpin of Stade Brestois 29 and is currently enjoying a fine period of form, scoring 3 goals in the last 4 games. His position, his Premier League experience, his collector's items... Read the interview he gave Ligue 1 a year ago.

Since last season, you've been playing in front of the defence, deeper than where you played in recent years...

Even though it's not my preferred position, it's a role that I like and that I'm familiar with because I've already played there a few times at Nice with Patrick Vieira as well as last season at Norwich. It's a different role where you're more at the start of the action than at the finish, but I like it. The coaches put me there so that I'd be more involved in building the game, finding passes in the gaps, not just defending. Of course, there are games where it's more complicated to play with the ball, but as I like to play short and clean, I enjoy playing in that position. I've always been a hard-working player, with a box-to-box profile, so it's never bothered me to cover a lot of ground.

What reflexes should you adopt or lose when going into that more defensive positioning

The first thing is that I can't afford to hang around the opposition too much any more (laughs). And in front of the defence, you have to lose even fewer balls, try to dribble less... When you lose the ball in an 8 or 10 position, there are people behind you to catch up, but there... That's why you have to be cleaner and defend a bit more too. But in terms of duels and aggression, I feel I've improved, thanks in particular to my year in England.

Going back to the summer of 2022, when you still had two years left on your contract at Norwich, you chose to sign for Brest. Can you tell us about your decision?

After Norwich were relegated to the Championship, I had several offers. I don't want to knock the English second division, but I wasn't really interested in playing in the Championship. It's a good league but there are a lot of games, two cups and, above all, I wanted to stay in a top flight club. I wanted to continue playing at the highest level. On top of that, Brest had an ambitious project. The recruitment was interesting and I liked the idea of returning to France. I'd spoken at length to Grégory Lorenzi and the coach. I'd also spoken to Christophe Hérelle, with whom I played at Nice. I thought long and hard before choosing Brest and I don't regret it at all. We have a good group, a good team and a family atmosphere.

Your experience in the Premier League was a mixed one, as the season ended in relegation. What do you remember about it?

When you sign for a club, it's not necessarily your intention to get relegated. But this year at Norwich will remain a good experience from a personal point of view. I discovered the Premier League, the stadiums, the great atmosphere... When we played Manchester United at Old Trafford, that was something. We lost 3-2, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a hat-trick. They didn't have much left to play for but there were 80,000 people there, and that made an impression on me. And in my game, I've made a lot of progress in terms of aggression and defence. Even though I would have liked Norwich to stay in the Premier League, there are a lot of positives and I didn't see it as a failure.

What about life off the pitch?

It was fun, even if my partner and I weren't big fans of the food. The English love to put beans everywhere. But life there was good. Especially as the clubs give more days off than in France during international breaks, so we often took the opportunity to go to London.

WATCH: Pierre Lees-Melou scores against Le Havre 

If I say the name Juninho, what does it bring to mind?

An anecdote from a long time ago! When I was at the Bordeaux training centre aged around 14-15, I was the smallest, so a lot of the bigger players liked me and took me under their wing. That was the case with certain reserve players like Sébastien Bouscarrat, Sacha Clémence and Jordan Galtier, who was the smallest player in his team, just like me! One day, Jordan asked me what my shoe size was, and when I told him I was a size 41, he said he had a present for me. It was a pair of spikes worn by Juninho. "Galette' got them because his father Christophe was assistant coach at OL at the time. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to play in them for very long because my feet grew out of them, but I still have them in a display case at home! They're white Adidas Predators with an elastic band that goes under the sole to hold the tongue in place. They're personalised with a Brazilian flag on the heel and her three daughters' names embroidered on the tongue.

Have you picked up any other collectors' items since then?

I don't have any other boots, but I did pick up some nice Premier League shirts: those of Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mané, Riyad Mahrez, N'Golo Kanté... Some nice names! But I don't really like asking about shirts. When I was a young pro, I sometimes tried to exchange my shirt, but I became more shy afterwards. Maybe because I was afraid of being turned down! Now I don't care, and most of the time I only swap shirts with friends or former team-mates.

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