Louis Laurent Saha (born 8 August 1978) is a French former professional footballer who played as a forward. Saha was capped 20 times for the France national team and scored four goals. A former scholar at the Clairefontaine football academy, he started his career at Metz before playing on loan at Newcastle United. Before the start of the 2000–01 season, Saha moved to Fulham where he established himself as first-choice striker, helping them to gain promotion to the Premier League in his first season with them.
His performances gained attraction from Manchester United, who eventually secured his signing for around £12.4 million midway through the 2003–04 season. Injuries plagued his Old Trafford career, however he did enjoy success with twice winning the Premier League, the 2007–08 UEFA Champions League and also scored six times en route to victory in the League Cup, including one goal in the final. Despite Saha's injury woes, United star Wayne Rooney has stated that Saha is his favourite player who he's played with.
After four and a half years at United, Everton took him to Goodison Park, where he opened the scoring in the 2009 FA Cup Final after 25 seconds, setting the record for the fastest goal scored in FA Cup Final history. He moved to Tottenham Hotspur on a free transfer in the 2012 January transfer window. Saha made his France debut in 2004 in a 2–0 victory over Belgium. He represented France at UEFA Euro 2004 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup, at which they reached the final.
Saha became first marquee player for the IMG-Reliance League, to be played in India in 2014.
Saha's parents were born on the island of Guadeloupe (a department of France), where his grandparents remain to this day. He has a younger sister and younger brother.
Saha began his career with Metz in 1995, and progressed to the senior team in 1997. He went on loan to Newcastle United in January 1999, scoring once against Coventry City and playing in a total of 11 league games, also scoring once in Newcastle's run to the 1999 FA Cup Final with the only goal in the fifth round clash against Blackburn Rovers. Saha was however left out of the cup final squad entirely by manager Ruud Gullit. At the completion of the 1998–99 season, he returned to Metz where he netted 5 goals in 47 matches in a two-year spell.
He was transferred to Fulham for £2.1 million in 2000. During a spell of nearly four years at the club, he scored 63 goals in total. In the promotion campaign of 2000–01 he scored 27 goals to fire Fulham into the Premier League.
During his first month in the top flight Saha was named Premier League Player of the Month. He scored nine goals in 44 appearances in all competitions, including two goals in games against Manchester United and Chelsea. His performance at Fulham's victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford was thought to be influential in persuading Alex Ferguson to sign him in 2004. He was less prolific in 2002–03, scoring seven goals. In his final season at Fulham he contributed fifteen goals in only 22 appearances before leaving in the January transfer window.
Saha was transferred to Manchester United for a fee of £12.4 million in 2004 having scored 15 goals so far that season and impressing Sir Alex Ferguson in Fulham's 3–1 win at Old Trafford. Fulham were reluctant to sell Saha but he pushed for a deal and it eventually went through on 23 January 2004.
Saha impressed early, with seven goals in his 10 starting appearances of the 2003–04 season and scoring on his debut against Southampton. In the next match, versus Everton, Saha and Ruud van Nistelrooy each scored two goals in a 4–3 win. On 28 February, he faced his former team for the first time, scoring the only goal for United in a 1–1 draw.
He then got an international call-up for French national team, scoring on his debut versus Belgium and made the Euro 2004 squad for the tournament in Portugal. Unfortunately, he was unable to play in the 2004 FA Cup Final win over Millwall, being cup-tied due to an earlier appearance with Fulham.
The 2004–05 season was a stop-start season marred by constant injury. Saha never really got going making only 11 starting appearances, 11 from the bench and scoring two goals. In September, he picked up a knee injury playing for France against the Faroe Islands which cost him a month. Then in November he picked up the injury again, also playing for the national side and costing nearly two months out. At the end of February 2005, the problem recurred, again leaving Saha out for a further two months. Over the summer Saha suffered another hamstring strain which ruled him out for the first three months of the 2005–06 season.
He finally returned in November 2005 and eased back into side as a sub, making appearances in League Cup matches. To the surprise of many, the French striker recaptured his initial good form and started banging in the goals. Six goals in the League Cup run saw him usurping Ruud van Nistelrooy as the first choice strike partner for Wayne Rooney. Saha was named a starter, over van Nistelrooy, in the final against Wigan Athletic, and scored a goal. Saha scored 15 goals during the 2005–06 season and was chosen by Ferguson to partner alongside Rooney for the next season, after van Nistelrooy's exit for Real Madrid during the summer transfer window.
Saha began the 2006–07 season by scoring only seven minutes into the first game against Fulham. He also scored the winning goal away to Benfica in the UEFA Champions League. In December 2006, he signed an extension to his contract lasting to 2010, though soon after began suffering from more injury problems. Groin and hamstring injuries restricted appearances and meant he only scored one goal in the second half of the season. He returned as substitute at Roma but then soon picked up a knee injury and was therefore absent for United's 1–0 extra-time loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Saha ended the season with 13 goals in all competitions, largely thanks to his pre-Christmas form.
In the 2007–08 season, Saha returned from injury and came as a substitute against Sunderland, scoring the winning goal. On 23 September 2007, Saha won and converted a penalty against Chelsea in Chelsea's first game with Avram Grant in charge. United won the game 2–0. This earned Saha a recall to the French national team after a year out. Against Arsenal, Saha came on to replace the under-performing Carlos Tevez in a 2–2 draw. He was key in setting up a goal as Cristiano Ronaldo gave United a 2–1 lead. Saha continued to make appearances off the bench, but when Wayne Rooney was ruled out for a few weeks he partnered Tevez up front. He started on 26 December, Boxing Day. Manchester United won the game 4–0 and Saha scored two goals including a penalty to lift Manchester United to 1st position in the Premiership. Saha made his return in an FA Cup clash versus Arsenal on 16 February 2008. The following weekend, Saha came on as a substitute for Ronaldo, scoring the final goal in a 5–1 rout of Newcastle United. After returning to nearly full fitness, Saha's injury haunts returned and forced him off with a hamstring complaint during United's win over Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford. Saha was ruled out for several weeks, missing key games. In the final game of the Premier League season against Wigan Athletic, Saha was named as a substitute, but played no part in the game. In May 2008, Saha admitted that he believed his United career was in doubt. Despite his desire to stay and love for the club, he was unsure of what the future held for him at Old Trafford.
Despite struggling with injuries in parts of the 2004–05 and latter parts of the 2006–07 and 2007–08 seasons, Saha still contributed 42 goals in all competitions for Manchester United in 120 appearances for the club.
Saha joined Everton in 2008 for an undisclosed fee, signing a two-year 'pay-as-you-play' deal. Not match-fit at his time of signing, Saha offered to train without being paid while injured. He made his Everton debut on 22 September coming on as a substitute in a league game away to Hull City, before scoring his first goal, against his former club Fulham, at Goodison Park on 1 November. Saha came off the bench at half-time in that season's FA Cup quarter-final against Middlesbrough, scoring the winner and helping Everton reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1995. In the FA Cup final, Saha scored the fastest goal in the final's history after 25 seconds, though opponents Chelsea came from behind to win 2–1. This broke Bob Chatt's record, which was set 114 years earlier in the 1895 Final. It was also the fastest goal in any match at the new Wembley Stadium, beating the previous record by Gianpaolo Pazzini in March 2007 in an under-21 international for Italy.
Saha scored his first goal of the 2009–10 season, after coming on as a substitute, on the opening day of the season against Arsenal in a 6–1 defeat at Goodison. He went on to a run of seven goals in seven games in all competitions, ending the season with 13 Premier League goals. He signed a two-year contract extension with Everton in February 2010, keeping him at the club until the end of the 2011–12 season.
Saha scored his eighth goal in five starts against Chelsea on 29 January 2011, and continued his form in the next home game, against Blackpool on 5 February, when he netted four goals in a 5–3 victory. It was his first hat-trick in the Premier League. Saha scored again for Everton against Fulham on 19 March 2011 with a low right footed drive from a free kick, he was later stretchered off with an ankle injury and remained sidelined for the remainder of the season.
Saha made his return for the 2011–12 season on 30 July 2011 in a pre-season fixture against the recently relegated Birmingham City at St Andrews. He was substituted into the match in the second half and scored 3 minutes into his return from injury with a low right footed drive from outside the box. Saha made his first start of the season for Everton in a home fixture against Liverpool. Everton lost the game 2–0. Saha scored his first goal of the season in a 3–1 victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage after coming on as a substitute. Saha continued his scoring in the following game on 26 October against Chelsea in a League Cup tie. He failed to score again for Everton, a drought that included 942 consecutive minutes of league football. Saha left Everton having scored 35 goals in 115 appearances.
On 31 January 2012, Saha completed a free transfer move to Tottenham Hotspur, signing a six-month contract. He was given the number 15 jersey, last worn by Peter Crouch. Less than a week later he made his debut against Liverpool coming on as a substitute for Emmanuel Adebayor in a 0–0 draw. He made his full debut in the very next league fixture against Newcastle United, scoring twice in a 5–0 win. On 26 February 2012, he made it three goals in three games for his new club when he scored the opening goal in Tottenham's 5–2 North London derby defeat against Arsenal.
He scored his fourth goal, in all competitions, for the club against Bolton Wanderers to make it 3–1 to Tottenham with the last kick of the game to send his side through to the FA Cup semi-finals against London rivals Chelsea. Following his successful short spell with Tottenham, Saha reported that he was desperate to seal a long term deal at White Hart Lane, citing Harry Redknapp as a big factor in his upturn in form. On 13 July 2012, it was confirmed that Saha was released after his contract expired at the end of the season.
On 16 August 2012, Sunderland confirmed the signing of Saha on a one-year deal. He made his debut two days later, coming on as a substitute in a 0–0 draw with Arsenal. His contract was mutually terminated on transfer deadline day January 2013. During Saha's time at Sunderland, he made only 14 appearances and failed to score a single goal.
On 6 February 2013, Saha signed a six-month contract with Italian club Lazio. He made his debut as a substitute on 9 February 2013 in a match against Napoli. Saha was released at the end of the short-term deal.
On 8 August 2013, date of his birthday, Saha announced his retirement from professional football via Twitter. Saha joined other retired players at a Testimonial match for his former Spurs teammate Ledley King on 12 May 2014. Coming on as a second-half substitute he scored a hat-trick against a lineup of current Tottenham players.
Saha represented France at various youth levels and scored the winning goal in the 1997 European Under-19 Championships against Portugal.
It was not until 2004 that Saha finally earned his first full cap, marking his debut with a goal in a 2–0 victory over Belgium on 18 February. That summer he was also selected for the Euro 2004 squad.
Saha contributed to France reaching the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final, but he was suspended for the final against Italy after receiving a yellow card during the semi-final victory over Portugal.
Saha was named in the squad picked for the Euro 2012 qualifiers (September 2011), which also included the goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, Chelsea's Florent Malouda and nine other players who took part in France's disappointing 2010 World Cup campaign. Prior to this, Saha had not played for his national side since November 2006 (although he was called up by Raymond Domenech in February 2010, he withdrew from the squad due to injury).
Saha made his return to the national team in a 2–1 win against Germany on 29 February 2012.
|1||18 February 2004||King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium||Belgium||2 – 0||2–0||Friendly match|
|2||28 May 2004||Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier, France||Andorra||3 – 0||4–0||Friendly match|
|3||2 September 2006||Boris Paichadze Stadium, Tbilisi, Georgia||Georgia||1 – 0||3–0||UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying|
|4||11 October 2006||Stade Auguste Bonal, Montbéliard, France||Faroe Islands||1 – 0||5–0||UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying|
|Newcastle United (loan)||1998–99||11||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||–||12||2|
Statistics accurate as of match played 5 May 2013
|France senior team|
Statistics accurate as of match played 29 February 2012
- Football League First Division: 2000–01
- Manchester United
- Premier League: 2006–07, 2007–08
- Football League Cup: 2005–06
- UEFA Champions League: 2007–08
- Coppa Italia: 2012–13
- France U-18
- UEFA European Under-18 Championship: 1997
- Football League First Division Top Scorer: 2000–01
- Premier League Player of the Month: August 2001