Ex-Tottenham Hotspur forward Frederic Kanoute believes that Real Madrid have enough quality to go on and win an unprecedented fourth consecutive Champions League title, despite the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo, though thinks it will be hard for his former side Sevilla to make waves in the Europa League.
Whilst showing glimpses of his talent and proving a popular figure during his spells at West Ham and Spurs, when you mention the name Kanoute to a Sevillafan, their ears prick up, their smiles beam and they pay attention.
The 2007 African footballer of the year is unquestionably one of the club’s greatest ever players and is seen as a living legend in the red and white side of the Andalusian capital.
Kanoute won the hearts of the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan faithful during his seven years in Nervion, winning two Copa del Rey titles, the Spanish Super Cup, the European Super Cup and of course two UEFA Cups which started Sevilla‘s obsession with Europe.
You enjoyed a great career, most notably at Sevilla where you’re seen as a legend, winning six titles and scoring in five finals. What was your most special moment in Spain?
“Honestly, I’m blessed with being able to choose which is the best moment, because there were so many. It’s very difficult. I remember arriving in the 2005/06 season and from the first year on we started to win trophies. I would say the first UEFA Cup was amazing, finally I could put my hands on a major trophy. I remember the Copa del Rey final against Getafe in particular when I scored the only goal of the game. It was a great feeling because it was such a tense game. Just being there all those years with a fantastic group of players. The whole package at Sevilla was amazing, I loved everything about it.”
You won the UEFA Cup, now Europa League, twice at Sevilla, does that competition hold a special place in your heart?
“Yes it does and it’s a really hard competition. Sometimes people depreciate the value of it because you have the Champions League. I think the Europa Leagueis a really tough competition as you have to go to some tough places to try and win games. I remember all the trips, it is a big adventure, a big journey. Winning it back-to-back was an amazing feeling, so yes it does hold a special place in my heart.”
Do you think Sevilla can do well in it again this season?
“Football, like everything, is made up of cycles. We had two magnificent cycles winning it twice, then winning three times. Now everybody is expecting it and waiting for Sevilla to do well in this competition so it gets harder and harder. That is why the achievement is so historic as once you win it the first time, everyone is waiting for you. We [Sevilla] have won it five times now which is historic for the club.”
Sergio Ramos is a Sevilla academy product, but you didn’t cross paths for long at the club. What do you think of his style as a player and what he’s achieved at Real Madrid?
“I crossed paths with him for one month during pre season then he got transferred. Obviously he’s a top defender and one of the best in Europe. He’s got an aggressive style but I wouldn’t say over the top, he’s a big talent, a good player and I think there are other central defenders that are actually more aggressive.”
Do you think VAR is good for football? Would you have liked it when you were playing?
“Honestly, I was in favour of it before it started and after seeing the World Cup I think that as it is often so much down to interpretation it was like going back to square one. That is, not a disappointment as such, but a fact. Football is a human sport made out of human mistakes, so I’m not so sure anymore [about VAR]. I’m not against it, but now I’m not 100 percent for it either. In many cases where you watch an incident 100 times back, whether you’re a fan, referee, coach you still can’t agree so it’s like we’ve gone back to square one.”
Which other teams do you see as serious contenders to win the Europa League? Obviously it might depend on who comes down from the Champions League, your old club Tottenham for example…
“Arsenal have an expert coach in winning the Europa League [Unai Emery] so it wouldn’t be a big surprise if they did it. Chelsea are a big contender, a very, very strong team. Tottenham maybe yes, if they dropped down from Champions League.”
If Spurs don’t win a title soon could you see Harry Kane moving on at some point potentially to Spain, to a team like Real Madrid?
“I don’t know how much the Spanish clubs fancy Kane, but I’m sure that now he’s attained another kind of status with all his goals, that if he doesn’t win anything, he will be really motivated to move on.”
Luka Modric won ‘The Best’ award ahead of Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo. Do you think he deserved it? Who would you have given it to?
“He deserves it yes, and the World Cup is really crucial for these kinds of awards. It’s the biggest major tournament in the world so whoever does well in it has the privilege of putting his name on the individual trophy and Modric was unbelievable, amazing. I really like this player and think he has so much humility. He has improved a lot this year.”
Who do you think are looking stronger this season – Real Madrid or Barcelona? Are there any other teams who can break their duopoly in Spain?
“Honestly I think Real Madrid will do well this season. We know they are two tough clubs and it’s very difficult to say as it’s the beginning of the season so many things will still happen. It’s impossible to say. It will be interesting to see what happens without [Cristiano] Ronaldo as he was taking all of the spotlight before. Now they [Real] will need to adapt tactically and technically and it will be interesting to see how they do.”
Could Real Madrid win an unprecedented fourth Champions League in a row or will their dominance end?
“I’m really bad at predictions [laughs]. Generally whatever I predict, the opposite will happen. But I do think maybe Real Madrid will do it again.”
Frederic Kanoute is working with UEFA Europa League partner Enterprise Rent-A-Car on their Legendary Journeys campaign. To discover more and to enjoy special rates on car hire across Europe, visit www.enterprise.co.uk