John Terry: 'It's sad as he has served Chelsea well... but there is a time for everything,' says Frank Leboeuf

EXCLUSIVE: World Cup and European Championships winner on the pending exit of the man who replaced him at Stamford Bridge

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The Independent Football

Much like John Terry, Frank Leboeuf was once the beating heart of the Chelsea defence. 

The classy centre-back, who started in France's World Cup 1998 victory and was part of the squad for the European Champions win in 2000, was a key part of Chelsea's drastic improvement in the mid-to-late 1990s under managers Glenn Hoddle, Ruud Gullit and then Gianluca Vialli.

Leboeuf scored an impressive 24 goals in 204 matches for the Blues between 1996 and 2001, winning two FA Cups, the League Cup and the Uefa Cup Winners' Cup. 

He also knows what it's like to have your time run out at Stamford Bridge.

Frank Leboeuf winning the 1998 World Cup with France - he also won Euro 2000

At the start of the 2000-01 season a brilliant young academy product was seriously challenging Leboeuf, then 33, for a place alongside Marcel Desailly in the first-team. He would eventually beat Leboeuf and become a Chelsea regular.

That youngster was, of course, John Terry.

Earlier this week Terry, arguably Chelsea's greatest ever player, revealed that the Blues had told him he would not be offered a contract to remain at in west London next season, despite still being, at 35, the best centre-back at the club. Chelsea and interim manager Guus Hiddink have since made noise that they may be willing to perform a U-turn on that decision, but only after an angry backlash from the club's supporters.

"It's sad because John has served the club very well and won many things with them," Leboeuf, who was in attendance at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Moment at the Grand Palais in Paris, told The Independent.

"But there is a time for everything. It happened the same to me, in 2001 I realised that John Terry was about to come up and take my place! So I decided to leave. I understand the ambition of the club, when you reach a certain age [they] have to think twice about making certain decisions."

Many believe that Terry's stature as the club's most successful player, his obvious affinity with the fans and his form, which has returned after an early season blip, means he should be given a new deal. Even if it's similar to the type of role Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes had in their latter years at Manchester United.

"It might be a solution," says Leboeuf, "but I don't know if John would agree to be on the bench and not play before he decides to retire. 

"What happened to Scholes and Giggs, they didn't play a lot. Scholes came back, played a little bit and then decided to retire. I don't what is John's goal, if he wants to carry on. He's ambitious, he may not accept that deal."

Left to right: Patrick Louis Vuitton, Frank Leboeuf, Bernard Arnault, Jimmy Spithill, Michael Burke

Leboeuf is now an actor, having appeared in several French films. He also had a small part in the Oscar-nominated Steven Hawking biography The Theory of Everything, as the 'Swiss Doctor'.

He also says he was "sad" when he heard about the sacking of Jose Mourinho in December, although "I understand the decision of the club."

On Chelsea in general, he says: "I can't be very happy with the way it's going, I've seen lots of games this season. Without naming people I think some players are not the same as last year. 

"Some players have been, maybe, too long playing for Chelsea and they need a new challenge. They have won everything, they are not doing what they were before."

For more information about the Trophy Moment, click here