Louis Saha: Talent Unfulfilled

fulham striker louis saha

Player Profile: Louis Saha

Date of Birth: August 8, 1978
Height: 1.83m
Position: Striker
National Team: France
International Caps: 20
International Goals: 4

Club Career

Few would dispute that Louis Saha had all the talent in the world. With his pace and marksmanship, he looked destined for the top from a young age. However, after a career repeatedly disrupted by injuries, Saha’s record is not exactly befitting of his ability.

Saha was a product of France’s famed Clairefontaine academy — its other graduates have ranged from Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka in the 90s to Kylian Mbappe in more recent times. After leaving the academy, Saha joined FC Metz in 1995 as a 17-year-old.

Within a couple of years, he was in the first-team playing alongside the likes of Rigobert Song and future Arsenal star Robert Pires. But Saha struggled to shine in a Metz side that finished second in Ligue 1.

The next season he got his first taste of English football when he was loaned to Newcastle United. At St James’ Park, he showcased glimpses of his talent, scoring twice in a 12-game stint with the Premier League side.

Upon his return to Metz, Saha took on a much more prominent role. He became one of the club’s leading attacking players, scoring 12 goals in 35 appearances. His displays were enough to catch the attention of the English First Division (now Championship) side Fulham, who signed the striker in the summer of 2000 for £2.1 million.

It was at Fulham that Saha really found his feet. He scored 32 goals in 48 games for the Cottagers that season, with 27 of them coming in the league. With Saha leading the line, Fulham won the First Division and earned promotion to the Premier League.

The next season saw Saha continue in the same vein, winning the Premier League Player of the Month award in his very first month in the competition. Despite a bright start, his goal contribution eventually tailed off, and the Frenchman finished with just nine goals in the league that season.

However, he had announced himself on the world stage and gained many admirers in the process. Among them his future manager Sir Alex Ferguson. When Manchester United and Fulham clashed at Old Trafford, the Cottagers were unlucky to go down 3-2. Saha scored both of Fulham’s goals and despite being on the losing side, he impressed throughout.

The 2002-03 season saw his goal contribution dip further, but Saha was back at his best the following season. By the halfway point of the season, he had racked up fifteen goals for Fulham. And that form was enough to persuade Ferguson to shell out the big bucks for him in January. Fulham did not let their star striker go easily, but Saha pushed for the transfer to happen and a £12.4 million move to United came to fruition. The transfer saga caused his standing among Fulham fans to drop.

Saha impressed early at United, scoring on his debut and he scored a further seven goals in the league that season. He finished third in the league’s scoring charts with 20 goals, behind Thierry Henry and Alan Shearer, and level with his teammate Ruud Van Nistelrooy. 

In the same campaign, Manchester United marched to an FA Cup victory. But, Saha was unable to play a part as he was cup-tied after representing Fulham in the same competition earlier that season.

The next season though saw the start of the injury problems that would haunt him in the years to come. Saha started the season with a knee injury that he picked up while on international duty. He was injured another three times that season, meaning that he ended it having played 22 games and scoring just 2 goals.

Saha returned from injury the following season and started showing the kind of form that had persuaded Ferguson to sign him in the first place. His form in the League Cup saw him preferred over Van Nistelrooy in the final, where he found the back of the net. He would score 15 goals that season in 30 appearances.

It was in 2006-07 that Saha finally became an English Premier League champion. After the departure of Van Nistelrooy, he was expected to lead the United attack alongside Wayne Rooney. But the emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo and constant injuries made sure he wasn’t a starring player. Nevertheless, Saha did chip in with useful goals, scoring 13 times over the season, including eight in the league.

The following season would prove to be Saha’s last at Old Trafford. The signing of Carlos Tevez had further increased the competition for places in attack. At the same time, his recurring injury problems meant Saha did not have it any easier. He only scored five times that season, and it ended in heartbreak when his injury troubles ruled him out of the Champions League final that United won. Another Premier League winner’s medal did make up for some of the disappointment though.

Next, Saha would sign for Everton on a pay-per-play basis, and this led to a rejuvenation in his career. While at Everton the Frenchman won a return to the national side and would later credit his stint with the club for helping him rediscover his love for the game. Saha spent four seasons with the Toffees and scored 27 league goals in that period, only one less than he had for United.

After leaving Everton in 2011, Saha would have brief and unsuccessful stints at Tottenham, Sunderland and Lazio before finally calling it a day.

International Career

Louis Saha made a promising start to his France career scoring on debut against Belgium in 2004. 

He was named in France’s 2006 World Cup squad, and while he did not score in the tournament, he played in several matches. Saha missed out on the final of the competition due to suspension and France went on to lose the game.

In 2012, six years after he last scored for Les Bleus, Saha returned to the team for a solitary appearance against Germany. This would prove to be his last cap for the national team, and he finished up with 4 goals in 20 appearances.

Where is Louis Saha now?

After retirement, Saha became an entrepreneur, investing in a mobile app called AxisStars. He also makes regular media appearances, often commenting on his former club Manchester United.

Did you know? Interesting facts about Louis Saha

– Louis Saha had a history of missing important finals. He was suspended for a World Cup final, injured for a Champions League final and was cup-tied for a League Cup final.

– He was initially announced as a marquee player when India launched a new league in 2014. However, he never ended up playing there.

– Wayne Rooney, who has partnered with Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Robin Van Persie and Carlos Tevez, once called Saha his best strike partner.