Aliadière: 'My best season'
Jérémie Aliadière talks Arsenal, Wenger and what it's like to finally be on top of his game at Lorient, where he is living up to his massive potential and making a case for a call-up to Les Bleus.
After 13 injury-plagued years in England with Arsenal, Celtic, West Ham and Middlesbrough, Jérémie Aliadière is thriving back in his homeland, enjoying his best-ever season, with 14 goals already.
"For a start it's a season where I can play every game and play regularly without any injuries, which is the first time in my career it has happened," he told beIN Sport. "So I had a great pre-season and since then I've kept playing every game and, you know, scoring goals and doing well. So, yes, it's definitely my best season."
Having joined Arsenal directly from the Clairefontaine academy aged 16, Aliadière was unsure about returning to France last summer.
"It was a bit difficult for me because obviously coming back to France after all them years - I played in the UK for 13 years," he explained. "So it was like, I was not sure, but at the same time Lorient was definitely a good opportunity to get the taste of good football and you know getting to enjoy playing football again, which I'd lost in the last few years in the UK."
If Aliadière is at last playing and scoring regularly, his long-time mentor Arsène Wenger is partly responsible: it was a phone-call from the Arsenal manager that enabled him to re-launch his career.
"The last few months before I came here I was training with Arsenal and I know that obviously Arsène Wenger and Christian Gourcuff are quite close, and they do talk and stuff," recounted Aliadière. "I think they must have had a conversation when Arsène Wenger said I was training with them and I was in good shape, doing well and training hard."
'Wenger like a second father'
Aliadière forged a strong bond with Wenger during the six years he spent at Arsenal before joining Middlesbrough.
"He's like a second father to me," said Alidière. "I came to Arsenal when I was 16; he brought me to the UK and looked after me for many years. So, you know, I've learned a lot from him and I'm still in contact with him now."
Aliadière has found something of a like mind in Christian Gourcuff. Like Wenger, the Lorient boss urges his side to play swift passing football - and like the man from Alsace, he is also fiercely loyal, having coached Lorient for some 23 years.
"I think they've got a very similar vision of football and the passing, going forward, passing games, and being well organised teams," mused the 14-goal hit-man. Obviously you've got one who's got more of an English mentality because he's, you know, training and being the manager of Arsenal in the UK for so many years. You've got to adapt to the English mentality."
Aliadière has also developed an English mentality, and although injuries restricted him to just 29 league appearances for the Gunners, he still has fond memories.
"Winning the Premier League in 2004 was obviously one of the best memories of my career," he said. "You know, being part of the Invincibles, and you know playing that season without getting beaten was just unbelievable, it's never been done since that year."
Aliadière relished the chance to rub shoulders with his compatriot Thierry Henry.
"I've trained so many years with him and had the chance to play with him a few times and, you know, seeing what he was doing at training, I admired him and wanted to be like him. In training, I tried top do the same stuff he was doing."
Not too late for France?
The time spent trying to emulate France's record scorer looks like it is paying dividends at last. Aliadière has scored a host of Henry-esque goals for Lorient this season, and is also fourth in the assists table. Now 29 and in the form of his life, it is hardly surprising the former France U-21 forward is eyeing his first senior call.
"Some people, when you get to 30, they see you differently, they think you're old and you can't play football again, so you know, we'll see what happens," he tempered. "But it's in the back of mind, although obviously I'll do everything I can to maybe get a call-up, yes."
Should Aliadière's current hot streak continue, it will surely be only a matter of time.