The talented Loic Remy was considered something of an enigma by the time he made the move from Marseille to Queens Park Rangers over the winter. His record of one goal in 12 matches in Ligue 1 in the first half of the season had raised question marks as to his ability to perform consistently at the highest level, though the France international, who has made 18 appearances and scored four goals for his country, could point to a series of injuries as mitigation.
His decision to leave a club fighting for the French title for another marooned at the bottom of the English Premier League raised a few eyebrows on both sides of the Channel. Within a few weeks, however, Remy had dispelled any doubts as to the wisdom of the move.
While his haul of five goals in 11 matches were ultimately not enough to save QPR from relegation, a fate that was confirmed by their goalless draw with Reading on Sunday, his performances in West London earned him a recall to the France team in March.
Commenting on the player’s return to the Bleus fold after an absence stretching back to November 2011, national team coach Didier Deschamps said: “He’s back in the squad because he’s rediscovered his spark. I was his coach for a few seasons and I know him well.”
Speaking before QPR’s relegation was sealed on Sunday, the striker of Martinique descent gave an exclusive interview to FIFA.com and discussed his long-awaited return to the France side, his experiences in Ligue 1 and his new life in the Premier League.
FIFA.com: Did you have any regrets about swapping a French title fight with Marseille for an English relegation battle with Queens Park Rangers?
Loic Remy: I’m pleased to see Marseille doing well. I’m really thrilled to see my former team-mates up there in the leading positions. They’re right on course for the Champions League. To be honest, given the quality there is in the team I’m not surprised to see them playing the way they are. As for me personally, I left because I wanted a different challenge, one that was tricky right from the start. I joined QPR to give my all though, and my goal at the end of the season was not to have any regrets. I don’t have any regrets about leaving and I’m happy here in England. I’m playing in a league where I’ve always wanted to play, and I don’t regret it.
What do you think about QPR’s performances since your arrival, and what about your contributions to the team?
We’ve had our ups and downs. There have been a few situations we could and should have handled better. We’ve had some games in the palm of our hand only to let them slip. Those are the games that make me a bit angry because I know we’ve got a lot of quality in the team. We had the resources to do really well.
Do you think the Premier League is the place for a player like you?
I feel like it is, in every way. You get less time to read the game in this league. There’s more pressure and there’s more contact, though there is more space too. It’s great for a player like me. They play deep here and I like that. It feels like the perfect league for me.
QPR are a club with great fans and a rich history, and the current squad is filled with big names such as Julio Cesar, Christopher Samba, Shaun Wright Phillips and you. Why do you think this season has been such a struggle for them?
It’s difficult to put your finger on it. The club was already in trouble when I arrived, though there are a lot of different reasons for a situation like that. I can’t analyse them. I don’t know what went on before, especially under the previous coach. I don’t know what the mindset of the players was or if the mood in the team was good. What has to be said, though, is that when you look at the quality of the squad it’s hard to understand the club’s current position. There are a lot of great players here who’ve played for some big clubs and taken part in major European competitions.
Now that you’ve left France, after playing for Lyon, Lens, Nice and Marseille, can you tell us which one of the four is closest to your heart?
I grew up in Lyon, I trained there, all my family live there and I signed my first professional contract there. I miss Lyon. But I miss Lens too, even though I only spent six months with them. I’ve got great memories of the place. My move to QPR is very similar to the one I made to Lens five years ago. The situation was exactly the same. I left one club, Lyon, that was fighting it out at the top of Ligue 1, for another, Lens, that was struggling. Out of the four clubs I’ve played for it’s those two that have made the biggest impression on me.
Your medical at Marseille revealed a heart problem that could have spelled the end of your career. What thoughts went through your head at the time?
Looking back I was pretty relaxed about it all. I was in permanent contact with the doctors and I just look on it as a false alarm. The story got plenty of coverage in the media and there was a lot of talk about my case. I knew that my heart was a little bit bigger than average and I was aware of the problem I had. It was hardly breaking news, though. A lot of players have the same problem, if you want to call it that. I don’t know if it was just a precautionary thing or if it was because it was Marseille, but people really went over the top about it on. Contrary to what’s been said, though, it isn’t something that’s held me back or discouraged me. When you hear that a decision’s going to be made in 48 hours, it’s only natural that you should have a few doubts, but once it was sorted I stopped thinking about it altogether.
So that incident has had no effect on the player you are today.
My heart problems have had absolutely nothing to do with me becoming the fighter I am today. I was a fighter long before now. Maybe subconsciously, though, it has helped me fight even harder in tough situations. At times like that I never have any doubts. I never give in. My feeling is that as long as you keep on working, you end up turning situations around.
What are the biggest differences between the Premier League and Ligue 1?
They’re very different leagues. There’s less contact in France. There is some contact, but it’s a lot less rough than in England. There are no half measures here. It’s very different. Ligue 1 teams tend to be more structured too, better organised, whereas in England there’s more risk taking. You tend to take more gambles and that’s what creates more space. That’s why you also see more goals in England.
Were you honestly surprised by your recent recall to the France side, over a year after your last appearance in the squad?
I wouldn’t say I was surprised. It always makes you happy, that’s for sure. I knew the team was more or less settled and that the squad had been coming together over the last few months. In my head, though, I wanted to be back in the national side. And I gave myself the chance to achieve that objective, and I got back in on my own merits. I was already on the way to rediscovering my best form. I didn’t get a lot of playing time at Marseille, but here I’ve had the chance to start playing again, get back in the groove and, most importantly of all, get in among the goals. The coach wants in-form players in each position and I think I fulfil that requirement.