Club Connector: Louis Saha
We profile former striker King Louis.
This week we look at ‘King’ Louis Saha – a regular goalscorer at both Old Trafford and Goodison Park in the last 10 years.
January 2004 – September 2008
September 2008 – January 2012
EARLY YEARS IN FRANCE
Saha began his career as a teenager with Metz in 1997. His record as a youngster was less than prolific but it was enough to attract the attention of Newcastle United who swooped to sign him on loan in 1999.
The then-21-year-old played 11 times under Ruud Gullit during his spell at St James’ Park. He returned to his parent club but was soon back on English soil, this time with Fulham where fellow countryman Jean Tigana was masterminding the Cottagers’ charge into the Premier League in 2000.
In his first full season, the £2.1million recruit walloped 32 goals in all competitions as Fulham romped to the Division One championship. The striker continued to be a regular name on the scoresheet as the West London outfit became an established Premier League force.
A barnstorming start to the 2003/04 season saw Saha plunder 15 goals in 23 games. It was form that attracted interest from Manchester United and it eventually led to a £12.6million move in January 2004.
PREMIER LEAGUE CHAMPION
Saha enjoyed success at Old Trafford, twice winning the Premier League title in his four-and-a-half seasons at the club.
He earned his first piece of silverware as a Red Devil in the League Cup in 2005, netting at the Millennium Stadium as United easily overcame Wigan Athletic 4-0.
However, the striker was forced to wait three years before collecting his first Championship medal, his 13 goals in 2006/07 contributing greatly towards the Red Devils’ triumph.
Saha then bagged five goals the following season as United retained the title. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side also won the Champions League but injury prevented the Frenchman from participating in the penalty shootout victory over Chelsea in Moscow.
United’s forward options at that time consisted of Wayne Rooney, Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, so when they swooped to sign Dimitar Berbatov on deadline day in the 2008 summer transfer window, Saha was already on the move to Everton where he initially agreed a two-year, pay-as-you-play deal.
FROM RED TO BLUE
Saha spent three-and-a-half years with Everton but it was a spell that was blighted by injuries. Still, he managed to average a goal every three games in his time at Goodison Park, finishing with a total of 35 from 115 appearances.
He netted eight goals in his first season as a Blue, one of which was his fabulous FA Cup final strike after 25 seconds - the fastest in a cup final at Wembley.
Saha followed this up with 15 goals in 2009/10 – form which earned him a new two-year contract. It was double figures again in 2010/11, this time scoring on 10 occasions, including an incredible four goals in Everton's 5-3 thrashing of Blackpool.
Saha added a further two goals in the first half of the 2011/12 season, but the acquisition of Nikica Jelavic signalled his Goodison Park exit in the final minutes of the 2012 January transfer window. At the age of 33, Tottenham was his destination.
In an interview with ESPN last May, Saha explained how tough it was to depart Everton - a club that even now is close to his heart.
He said: “It was hard walking away because it is such a great club and it was such a good atmosphere to play at Goodison Park - I really felt the love there, but sometimes you have to make difficult decisions and it was time for a change in my career.”
Saha marked his senior international debut against Belgium in February 2004 with a goal - the first of four he scored for Les Blues.
He helped France reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2004 before they were eliminated by winners Greece. Saha also had the opportunity to play at the 2006 World Cup but he was cruelly suspended for the final – where they lost on penalties to Italy – after collecting two bookings in the previous rounds of the competition.
Recalling one of the most disappointing moments in his career, Saha last month said: “I got a yellow card in the semi-final against Portugal which meant I missed the final – I chopped both of Luis Figo’s legs. I wanted to prove I could play so much that I got excited and got a yellow card. It wasn’t for me to play in the final, I was really sad.”
Saha did not play for France for five-and-a-half years after November 2006 before his form for Tottenham earned a recall for a friendly with Germany in February 2012.
HANGING UP THE BOOTS
Saha spent a short spell with Sunderland at the start of last season but failed to score in any of his 13 games for the Black Cats. He moved to Lazio in January and after just three run-outs for the Italian side, he officially announced his retirement from the game in August.
Since then, Saha has been working as a pundit for French television. However, he recently expressed a desire to once again lace his boots and participate in the I-League – India’s top football competition.
He said: “I like to discover new things. If I could help launch another league, I would be happy to discuss that. At the same time, things have to be clear with me and I will think about it, that is for sure. India is something that would be exotic.”