Football News exclusively caught up with Frenchman and central defender Claude Dielna following his move to English side Sheffield Wednesday.
Born: 14th December 1987
Current Club: Sheffield Wednesday
Former Clubs: FC Lorient, Istres, Olympiakos, SC Sedan (loan), AC Ajaccio (loan)
Let’s look back a little before looking forward. Why did you join Olympiakos in 2012?
There were quite a few clubs interested back then, in Ligue 1 and abroad, and certainly in England. But I made the decision to join Olympiakos because they had a good project, and certainly because they were playing Champions League football.
Considering the amount of Frenchmen at Olympiakos, do you think that the club has a certain strategy to recruit from the French league?
I would say yes, because, as you said, there are quite a few French there. It is surely down to Christian Karembeu who brings that French touch. We know there are good players in Ligue 1, so they go to sign players from there.
Do you feel like you never had a chance at Olympiakos?
Yes, that is for sure. I do feel that way. They didn’t give me a chance, they didn’t allow me to prove myself on the pitch, so I was unable to showcase my ability and my qualities. But I do not have any regrets. I am happy to have made the choice I made. After that, you know well, football, it is like that.
What have you taken forward with you from your time in Greece?
Not that much! Maybe the fact that I was at a big club, a very big club even. I can say that I was also able to meet some good players, like Éric Abidal. Despite my short period at Olympiakos, I was able to have a few exchanges with him. I guess it allowed me to get to know a new league, as well as a new way of life. I did not get my chance, but it is not the end of the world. That is why I am where I am today, to find a place to compete again.
With regards to Éric Abidal, what did he tell you?
Éric Abidal is a great player. He is player with an immense career and as a fellow defender, one can do little other than admire him. You can’t really say the opposite (he laughs). As well as the courage he showed to beat his illness. We did exchange a few words, we spoke together a few times. He is a great player, so when he speaks, you listen. Ahead of all that, he is simply a nice guy.
You finally discovered Ligue 1 life with Ajaccio last season. What was that like?
It was truly a joy because, despite the dark season that collectively Ajaccio had, personally, I had a very good season. Ligue 1, is a level of competition that in my heart I had always wanted to reach so I was super happy to be able to show my qualities at the highest level.
What are your version of events vis-à-vis the Fabrizio Ravanelli fallout?
Listen, it is true that we really shot him in the foot. After that, Fabrizio Ravanelli is someone who I have always had a good relationship with, I’m not going to deny that. His methods are not accepted by everybody. If he had got the right results, we would have all said differently. It is sure that in bringing his Italian flair to the club, people wanted it to work, but that was not the case.
Does that explain your relegation to Ligue 2?
You know, when you start the season badly and we are chasing to pick up points from behind, it is difficult to come back. It is true that there were plenty of matches for us to come back in, but the situation was made more complicated by this handicap. Also, at the start of the season, there were a lot of injuries, and that continued throughout the season. It is a fact, we were relegated, and that is the reality. I think that the pre-season preparation was really difficult, the players did not manage that very well and that might explain are performances.
After two loan spells, you returned to Olympiakos this summer where you had one year of contract remaining. However, you left the club for free. Can you explain to us why this was the case?
When I returned to Greece, I was told that the club still was not counting on me, something that made me smile a little. I think it wasn’t just about football this decision. Today, I don’t know why, but I think about it. I preferred to leave on a positive note and say nothing but good things about this club. I am somebody who permanently has a smile on my face. As you say, in defeats there are is also success, and today my success is to be at Sheffield Wednesday despite the fact that I was not able to prove myself at Olympiakos.
Olivier Kapo has recently denounced the Greek league regarding corruption. Do you have a point of view on that?
I didn’t actually play in the Greek league, I wasn’t given time to. He is a great player, everybody knows that and if he says that, it cannot be for nothing. So there, I will stop there!
In your opinion, what did Sheffield Wednesday like about your attributes as a defender?
It is true that I have a very involved style of play. I like duels a lot. I think that was why Sheffield continued to watch me. We know that England is known for its very physical leagues and lots of forward-moving football. Outside of that, they were looking for a left-footer, quite a fast one. That is what made the difference.
What convinced you to join this club?
It is a very big club, with great history. It is a club that is challenging for promotion, one that is ambitious. For me, it was important to join an ambitious club, one that was able to climb up to the Premier League. That is what made me want to join Sheffield Wednesday. They have lots of fans. The stadium is full. There are always between 20,000 and 30,000 people in the stadium. All of these things gave me the desire to join. I have received a lot of nice messages from fans, messages that have really touched me and already shown me how familial this club is.
Have you already exchanged words with your new manager Stuart Gray? What came from that?
Listen, he is very happy that we are working together. He came to see me regularly last season when I was playing for Ajaccio in Ligue 1. He wanted me already then, even before the season was over. I have always had a good relationship with him, I am very happy to work with him at Sheffield Wednesday.
How has it been settling in?
I feel settled. There is an nice atmosphere, it is a young group with good players in it. There are also some experienced players, like Royston Drenthe who is an immense player who has played for Real Madrid and who has arrived at the same time as me. It shows the ambition of the club who wants promotion and to win as many games as possible. There are some really good players here, and I hope we can have a very good season.
The club plays Bolton at the end of the week. Where do you sit hierarchically in the squad?
I can tell you that I will be starting my first match vs Bolton. It is true that we are at the beginning of the week (when the interview occurred), but I know already. I have known for a little while now. That is why I am doing everything to be as fit as possible and to be at the beck and call of the coach, the group and the fans who will see my play. I have received quite a few messages, so I hope we will win this match and that I will make a good start.
What are your personal aims for the upcoming season?
To play strings of matches. It is important. I am 26 so now, I need to play matches consistently with good performances attached to that. Afterwards, so long as the team wins, I will be happy. This will be the culmination of my goals, but if there was victory at the end, then it will make it all even better.
A.K. with C.N.