How are things going?
We resumed training last Tuesday, so it’s been over a week now. We’re working hard and it really feels good to be back on the pitch – to get to see team-mates again. And to simply be playing football, kicking the ball and scoring goals again. I’d really missed it a lot. That being said, it’s very unique. But it’s fine, spirits are high. All my relatives are healthy too so I can’t complain.
How was daily life at home for you during lockdown?
Chelsea would send us programmes to follow in order to keep fit; we had exercises to do everyday. I’m lucky enough to live right next to a great park and I went there to run almost every day to keep fit. We also had gym exercises that didn’t require weights or equipment, so it was quite convenient. And towards the end of this period, the whole team video called and we did circuit training. I did it at home in the playroom alongside my children. It was quite pleasant and we had fun doing that.
However, for all the running alone at the park, nothing replaces being on the pitch – direction changes, acceleration, stop-and-go moves. Almost all my team-mates got blisters after resuming training. It’s pure joy to be back on the pitch but throughout this whole two-month period, you can’t compare what you’re doing in the park and being on the pitch. That’s why the last week hasn’t been easy. We’ve been working very hard to be ready as soon as possible and avoid falling behind, because the preparation is still short.
This period has been difficult because of football’s absence. Competitions have stopped; I’ve really missed them and the adrenaline, the fans. By the way, I worry about playing football without the fans. I think it will lose its charm, but that’s how it is.
And have you been helping your children with their schoolwork?
I’ve spent a lot of time with my kids and with my wife, of course. I’ve watched them grow in everyday life more than I usually do; spending time with them is priceless. You have to look for the positive in everything and that’s who I am. Of course, it’s felt good to go back to training and playing football, and I hope that my kids can go back to school soon. I’ve really enjoyed spending time with them.
It’s a year now since you met your old club Arsenal in the Europa League final.
It was a very special moment, but it was like extra motivation for me because I wanted to show the club [Arsenal] that, at the time, I had to go. They had asked me to leave, but I wanted to show them that I still had some energy in me and some good years left in me. In the final, I scored, I got an assist and I won the penalty. So quite a lot of good things happened for me, because I was involved in three goals out of the four. It was like a dream. I couldn’t have imagined that it would go so well, so perfectly for us.
Having said that, I showed a lot of decency in my goal celebration: I only fell to my knees and lifted my hands towards the sky, just like I usually do, to thank the Lord. I was really grateful to have been able to open the scoring that night against my old team. I didn’t want to over-celebrate, as I wanted to show them some respect.
I knew that that match was going to be special for me because, even if we were to win, I spent five-and-a-half extraordinary years at Arsenal. It was wonderful. But in football, you have to turn over a new leaf and move on. I wanted to win things at Chelsea; that’s why I was even more motivated that night.
Can you tell us why you decided to extend your contract at Chelsea?
I was supposed to leave the club in the January transfer window because I wasn’t playing much and I needed more game time to make the France squad for EURO 2020. I very nearly left the club, but I really think that God wanted me to stay at Chelsea. The manager told me that he couldn’t let me leave because he didn’t have anyone to replace me. Everyone knows what happened so I won’t go back over it, but the coach spoke to me privately and told me that he’d give more games.
I simply seized my opportunity and I repaid the faith that the manager had shown in me. That’s why the club ultimately offered me the chance to continue my time at Chelsea and I accepted immediately, because I like it here. I want to keep winning trophies and I want to continue to show the manager that he can count on me. Plus, with the whole coronavirus lockdown situation, I didn’t really feel comfortable with the idea of moving abroad and uprooting my family. I think a lot about our quality of life and we have a great set-up here. I think a lot about my family now.