Marcel Desailly fears Olivier Giroud will struggle to maintain his position as Chelsea’s leading striker over the course of the season but has praised Frank Lampard for his handling of the France international.
Having almost left Chelsea last January last year, Giroud was again considering leaving Stamford Bridge until his four-goal spree against Sevilla in the Champions League earlier in December saw him regain his starting spot.
The 34-year-old was growing concerned that he would lose his spot in the France team ahead of next summer’s European Championship as he chases down Thierry Henry’s all-time goalscoring record for Les Bleus.
But Desailly, who captained both Chelsea and France, has explained why he feels that Giroud finds himself in and out of the team in west London.
“He is not the future of Chelsea and he can never be the main man,” Desailly told Goal , as part of the Nissan UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour.
“He can only be important at moments for the club because Lampard can be clever to study the opponents and use him in specific games against teams who don’t like facing a player with his strengths.
“I believe that Lampard has helped Giroud shine often by getting a lot out of him but he can’t be the first choice for Lampard. He has Tammy Abraham and Timo Werner to compete with, so he can’t maintain his first-choice status from the start until the end.
“It is just down to Lampard to use him at the right time, get runners around him to allow him to shine. He is 34 years old now so don’t ask him to be the main man but make sure that he is important when he is needed. With his age, and status as a world champion, then I think this is about how and when you use him.”
Still, when it comes to his status in France, Giroud is well on his way to establishing himself as a legendary player. Having won the World Cup in 2018 as the main striker, Giroud is now targeting individual records after winning 105 caps and scoring 44 goals.
Seven more goals are needed to match Henry’s all-time scoring record, while he also ranks in the top 10 most-capped players for his country. France coach Didier Deschamps has kept his faith in Giroud even amid difficult spells for his club and Desailly sees him differently in the shirt of Les Bleus.
“He is indispensable for the national team,” he continued. “Giroud is the perfect team-mate and player for the France national team. He is the first choice in the national team. [Anthony] Martial doesn’t combine as well in the national team as Giroud.
“[Kylian] Mbappe can play down the middle but he is the world champion from being out wide. You have to pick Giroud, who is the second top scorer in France’s history, even if at club level he is on and off.”
Desailly was a hero for the France national team himself after winning a host of club honours with Marseille, AC Milan and Chelsea during an illustrious career. He excelled in France’s defence and won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000.
Now the next generation are hoping to emulate Desailly and he picked out his favourite defenders from the impressive talent pool at Deschamps’ disposal.
“Probably the best combination is [Clement] Lenglet and [Rafael] Varane,” Desailly said about France’s options at centre-half. “I love [Samuel] Umtiti but he is often injured and it depends on the moment.
“We know [Dayot] Upamecano at Leipzig is amazing. It looks like in the national team that he needs to acclimatise to the level, different team-mates and system. He has to get used to the stress of the new level.”
Desailly won back-to-back tournaments with France but also saw his side finish bottom of their group in the 2002 World Cup. He offered his advice to the next generation on what it takes to keep at the top at the international level: “The adrenaline, the stress levels, the capacity to maintain your intensity makes it difficult.
“For us, we did it back to back but then we were almost the same players that failed badly in 2002. I hope for them that they can manage all their elements to perform again like we did the first time around.”