CHENNAI: One of the principal concerns when the Indian Super League was launched was whether franchises could convince all the big names, in the country more out of curiousity than anything, to come back for more. The likes of Elano and John Stiven Mendoza came back for the second year. And now former Chelsea star Florent Malouda, after making his debut in Season 2, is back.
Malouda, who will lead Delhi Dynamos in their first game of the season in a few days against Chennaiyin FC, says his Indian winter was everything he hoped it would be. “It was a great experience in the League last year,” Malouda told Express. “It was a new experience and I liked playing here. I had a great team and we were unfortunate to have lost in the semis. Overall, it was a great experience. The country exceeded my expectations. It’s great to be part of the Indian Super League once again.”
Delhi was under the management of Roberto Carlos last year, but have hired Italian Gianluca Zambrotta as coach this season. The Italian has already changed everything around at the club. Malouda is enjoying working with the former Juventus, Milan and Barcelona man.
“It is great for the club to have him as coach. He has had a great career as a player and is establishing his career as a coach,” the former France international said. “He has a different style of coaching from Roberto Carlos and has Italian methods of physical and tactical preparation. He takes everything seriously and works on every details. It is very good for the young Indian players, who can benefit from this type of guidance. It will add to the expertise of the Indian coaching staff as he is spending a lot of time with them, sharing tactical expertise as well. It will also be good for the grassroots as his knowledge would help the young players.”
After a horror first season under Dutch coach Harm van Veldhoven, Delhi improved markedly in the second, bringing in Carlos as coach apart from Malouda and John Arne Riise. This season, however, will see the team take to the field with a completely different squad. Riise and Hans Mulder — arguably their best player over the first two seasons — have both moved to Chennaiyin FC. Offsetting the losses are the arrivals of Bruno Pelissari and former Real Madrid player Marcos Tebar. But despite the changes, Malouda remains confident that Delhi can do better than last year.
“My aim is to remain in top form and perform to the best of my abilities in this season,” he said. “My ambition is obviously to do better than last season. Like last season, what I did in terms of assists, I would like to score more goals. My priority is to reach the finals which is on December 18. So my target is December 18.”