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Wesley Fofana exclusive: ‘I want to win trophies and be the best defender in the world’

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Wesley Fofana lost the best part of the season last year - he is determined to make this campaign meaningful - DAVID ROSE
Wesley Fofana lost the best part of the season last year – he is determined to make this campaign meaningful – DAVID ROSE

Wesley Fofan has a lot to worry about. A new season is looming for Leicester City, his name is at the center of a maelstrom of speculation around interest from Chelsea, and the Winter World Cup is looming in sight.

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It’s some kind of input tray. However, in many ways, Fofana has been preparing for such moments all his life. The French defender is well known like the talent of a generationlong coveted by Europe’s top clubs since he first started impressing at Saint-Étienne’s academy as a teenager, so nothing can turn him down.

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Although he is human. The 21-year-old is still awaiting his first international appearance for France and Didier Deschamps has few options in his position. Fofana even laughs as we list some of the names in contention for the Qatar team as we sit down to talk at Leicester’s gleaming new training center – Jules Kunde, Dyot Upamenko, Presnel Kimpembe, Ibrahima Konate, Rafael Varane, William Saliba, Kurt Zouma . It is, as Fofana admits, the “crazy” embarrassment of wealth.

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However, the opportunity to get inside the biggest stage setting the game has to offer understandably occupies his mind.

“I’d be lying if I said I’m not thinking about the World Cup because it’s a big goal for me,” he says. – I am French and, of course, I want to represent my national team. The coach has his own ideas and the team is already formed, but I really want to be there. Every player has to work hard – if he’s a bit lazy for his club, he’ll be left out.”

There is, of course, the question of which club Fofana will represent by the time Qatar turns over. Chelsea make no secret of their admiration for him and their new owners are determined to spin their transfer business into what’s left of the transfer window. Such interest is hard to resist; it’s equally unsurprising if Fofana stays and hones her talents in the East Midlands for another year.

Of course, it makes no sense that he is unhappy with the club – he recently stopped taking English lessons and feels completely at home with his teammates, even coming to away games when he was injured last season to support them. And Leicester are more than happy with him: his manager Brendan Rodgers said he could be one of the best defenders in the world. No wonder if he ends up becoming the most expensive defender in the world; maybe not this summer.

I remind him of Rogers’ comments and ask him how it feels to be described in such terms. “When he [Rodgers] said that this certainly creates additional pressure, but this should be the goal of any player, he insists. “I want to not only win trophies, but also try to be the best defender in my position in the world.”

Fofana sets high goals for her role models. He is a fan of Virgil van Dijk and Kalidou Koulibaly, but as a child he watched “lots of Maldini videos. He always had time [mimics smoking a cigar]. Sergio Ramos too, I liked his character and his bite and the way he wanted to hurt his opponent.”

Growing up, Fofana was a big fan of Italy and AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini – GETTY IMAGES
Growing up, Fofana was a big fan of Italy and AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini – GETTY IMAGES

Fofana is on a mission make up for lost time having missed most of last season due to the first major injury of his career.
In Leicester’s last pre-season friendly against Villarreal, Fofana was attacked from behind by striker Fer Nino, suffering a fractured fibula and a sprained ankle. Rogers called the challenge “terrible”.

Staff in the tunnel area that night still remember Fofana screaming in agony as he was pulled out on a stretcher.

It was a moment that arguably ruined Leicester’s season before it even started, leaving them little time to find a suitable replacement due to limited funds.

A year later, Fofana reflects on this incident with maturity. “After such a terrible injury, you can almost turn it into a motivational thing,” he says.

“Now I can watch it on video without any problems. You can turn a negative into a positive, which is what I did. Out of bad comes good, and I’ve been through that. This makes you stronger.

“I received a text message the day after [from Nino]but there has been no contact since then. There are no hard feelings.

“We play a contact sport and everyone gives 100 percent and it happens. If we run into each other again, it will be a battle and we won’t hold back, but let’s hope the bones won’t be broken!”

Fofana eventually returned in March, signing a new five-year contract that same month in the European Conference Round of 16 second leg against Rennes, and it was an evening he will never forget.

Leicester’s tenacious performance was epitomized by the outstanding Fofana, who also scored the winning goal from a corner. [his first for the club].

Fofana came to celebrate with Rogers what was the picture of a difficult season.

“It was one of the greatest matches of my life. There was also relief and disappointment because I was supposed to play the first match the week before but got Covid,” he says.

“It was even more special to be in France. My whole family drove six hours to Rennes, and such an important goal made it even more memorable.

“I ran to management and staff to celebrate because they didn’t let me go for a minute for seven months. [injured]. They were with me every step of the way.”

Fofana rose above all and scored a memorable goal against Rennes - REUTERS
Fofana rose above all and scored a memorable goal against Rennes – REUTERS

Fofana went on to play 11 more games of the season, instantly bolstering Leicester’s defence, along with Johnny Evans.

“I feel brand new, no pain. Sometimes, after a long break, you can still get small injuries, but I do my best to avoid this, ”he says.

“It was a serious injury that had to be overcome, but I think I came back pretty quickly. The games I played at the end of last season prepared me for this season, which is going to be long and difficult.”

Family is a huge part of Fofan’s life and this summer he married his longtime girlfriend Sirina in Monaco.

He returned to France last month for the Grand Prix at Le Castellet. Formula 1, along with rugby and basketball, is his passion. The track is 44 miles from where he grew up in the tiny village of Vitrolles, although the race was an experience tinged with frustration.

“Lewis [Hamilton] was so close I thought he was going to do it [Hamilton finished second behind Max Verstappen]. “I love Formula 1 and he is one of my favorite athletes.

“He has a personality, it’s not just about driving. He says from the bottom of his heart what other people dare not say. He’s always true to himself and I really admire him.”

Fofana is now gearing up for the new season and shakes her head as she reflects on how much he’s packed in the last three years.

He only made his first-team debut at Saint-Étienne in May 2019 and is still in touch with the club, admitting that their relegation from Ligue 1 last season “hit my heart deeply”.

He says: I consider myself very lucky. Here in England I have played more games than ever for Saint-Étienne. Now I have made this journey that I want to enjoy every minute. Many others are not so lucky to be in my place.

“Leicester is family and I felt it from day one. I have always felt like a native of Leicester.

“It’s a big club and institution, but everyone has time for each other and everyone understands. We are all brothers, sisters and cousins.”

Jamie Vardy keeps him on his toes. “He is an incredible player, but this guy is also crazy! For the team he raises everyone. When he’s not around, you really notice it. In difficult moments, he has the experience and personality to push everyone.

“On my first day, he stopped me and said, ‘You are my little Wes. Every day there are jokes in French or English. He’s a very nice guy and my bro.”

Now about this weekend and a visit to Brentford on Sunday.

“This is a big season for me and for Leicester,” he says. There are already some great strikers in the Premier League and more this season after the transfer window. I care about it, and I’m ready for them. m prepared.


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