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Updated Friday June 9, 2000
Leboeuf ready to answer fans' prayers
By Steve Stammers in Belgium

Next year's school fees for nine-year-old Jade Leboeuf and her eight-year-old brother Hugo have been paid and their mother, Beatrice, loves life in London. The man of the house, Chelsea central defender Frank Leboeuf, is proud of the part he has played in the club's most successful era and shares the supporters' dream of bringing the League Championship to Stamford Bridge for the first time in 45 years.

All he wants now is for manager Gianluca Vialli to assure him - not guarantee, he stresses - that he has a significant part to play in Chelsea's plans for next season.

'I am 32 now and I have two years left on my contract,' said Leboeuf. 'Nothing would please me more than to spend those two years at Chelsea and to finish that second season by playing in my second World Cup Final. Everyone needs an aim, a target. That is mine. Then, perhaps, play for another year or so in America.

'But because of my age and because there are not too many seasons left, I don't want to spend most of next season sitting on the bench. It is hard to get into the French team now, with players of the quality of Marcel Desailly and Laurent Blanc around. If I was going to spend most of next season out of the team, then it would make it very hard to get into the French squad, never mind being a substitute.

'It has been so busy lately, what with the Premiership finish and the FA Cup Final, that I have not had the opportunity to talk to Luca. But I will do once I have finished with Euro 2000. Hopefully, that will not be until 2 July. That is the day of the final.'

Leboeuf and his team-mates are now in Belgium, at their pre-Euro 2000 base in a retreat some 15 miles from Brussels, fresh from the impressive 5-1 win over Morocco in Casablanca on Tuesday. Leboeuf played well and a stomach virus that has left Blanc feeling weak and low has enhanced the Chelsea man's chances of playing in France's opening game against Denmark in Bruges on Sunday.

'I have no idea if I will be playing, no one does,' said Leboeuf.

What he does know for sure is that if Vialli indicates that Leboeuf will be involved in the next domestic campaign - as he was in the last one, when he played 45 games - then Chelsea will be foremost in his thoughts.

'I love the club and I have never said I would leave,' said Leboeuf, who recalled how, after the last game of the season against Derby, dozens of fans pursued him to his car and pleaded: 'Frank, don't leave - please stay.' Leboeuf responded by saying he had no intention of going.

'I don't know where those stories came from,' he said. 'There was a link with Lyon but I can honestly say that I have never spoken to anyone at the club. Of course I will try to be at Chelsea next season and one thing is for certain - I will never play for another English club. Never. There are possibly only five in Europe who would be interested. I would be too old and too expensive for the others.

'Basically, though, I want to stay at Chelsea. But I have to know that Chelsea want to keep me to play for them. If they don't, then I will have to find something else. You have to act, you have to have an aim. If you don't then sooner or later you are going to be in trouble. I don't know if the manager is counting on me. I hope he is going to call me and let me know my future.

'I have loved my four years at Chelsea and I am very proud of what I have contributed to their most successful time ever - five cups in four years. And I would love to give the fans what they want the most - the championship. It means so much to them.'

Leboeuf, with his shaven head and the extravagant gestures allied to immense ability as a central defender, is an easy target for rival supporters. Occasionally he loses it, and never was that better illustrated than in the home game with Leeds when he was sent off and then stamped on Harry Kewell before leaving the field.

'To this day, I cannot explain why I did that,' said Leboeuf. 'I have never done anything like that in my 13 years as a professional. It is not in my nature. I am not big enough or strong enough to be that kind of player anyway. I prefer to play and pass my way out of situations. I don't know why I got involved like that with Harry Kewell. I was just so upset about what was happening.

'When I saw him at Leeds after we played there, I apologised. I told him I regretted my actions and he accepted it. He understood that it was not like me to do something like that. After that happened, I just wanted to repay the club for the good times they had given me, people like Colin Hutchinson (managing director) and Ken Bates (chairman). Honestly, I have been so happy here.

'It is so good and so funny at times to be with a squad of players from so many countries. The serious talking, at half-time for instance, is done in English. But day to day it is so amusing. When I speak to Gianfranco Zola it is in English because he doesn't speak French and I don't speak Italian. But Franco and Didier Deschamps speak Italian because Didier learned it while playing for Juventus.

'But the funniest one is Gus Poyet. He speaks Spanish, some Italian, some English - and he uses them all in the same sentence! It is his own form of Esperanto. A real international language.'

Contrary to popular opinion, Englishman Dennis Wise was not the only interested Chelsea player when God Save the Queen was played at Wembley before the FA Cup Final win over Aston Villa.

He admits to being stirred by the English national anthem: 'I was singing along. That was a special day. The last Wembley final before it is renewed. I was proud to be out there.'

Leboeuf has never forgotten his roots in the little French fishing village of St Cyr-sur-Mer on the CTMte d'Azur.

He goes back to the village, which has 7,000 inhabitants - 'it goes up to 40,000 in the summer!' - and despite his status as its most famous son, Leboeuf is happiest when he is with his old friends.

'I love it down there,' he said. But he also wants it known that he is content in the city of more than 7,000,000 that his family have made their home.

'My kids, they love it here. They speak more English than French and Beatrice, she does not want to leave,' he said.

The next move would appear to be Vialli's.

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