QPR defender Chris Samba: 'All the talk about my salary is just nonsense'
The Congo international took a £20,000-a-week pay cut and swapped the Champions League prospects in Russia for a relegation fight with QPR because he missed his family
"Do you think it's too much money?" Chris Samba fires back when asked his feelings towards the £12.5m fee it took to bring him back to the Premier League.
At 6ft 4in and close to 100kg it's hard to know how to answer the man Harry Redknapp still hopes will lead his Queen's Park Rangers team to safety. Thankfully he is in philosophical mood.
"I know some people do," he says. "If it was another player would that be OK? Maybe someone else is more worth it? I'm not here to judge. I was bought. I didn't choose to buy myself."
The France-born defender is aware of what hefty price tags can do to players. He has seen what has happened to Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres, like everybody else.
"We don't set the price," Samba says. "I think my transfer came across totally wrong because of the valuation. Maybe some people believe in what I have done in football, my reputation, what I did at Blackburn was enough to be worth that."
Since moving to Blackburn from Hertha Berlin in 2007, when Mark Hughes bought him for just £450,000, Samba has been sold twice for a total of £23.5m.
His wages at Anzhi Makhachkala were quoted as being £120,000-a-week, way beyond anything he was getting at Blackburn. Though when he says he did not come to QPR for the money it is backed up by the fact that he took a reported £20,000-a-week pay cut and swapped Champions League football for a relegation fight to do so.
Samba insists his acrimonious departure from Blackburn last year was triggered by broken promises. "I was told they were going to rebuild the team, and when they didn't I felt that my time there was up," he says.
Rovers rejected his transfer request but manager Steve Kean seemed happy to let Samba sit out the season in the stands. Arsenal and Tottenham, then managed by Redknapp, both showed interest, but neither could match the large price asked for his services. As deadline day loomed Anzhi were his only way out. Yet a year later he's back in the Premier League after QPR met his release clause from the Russian club.
Samba says he never asked to leave Anzhi and left on good terms with the owner, billionaire Suleyman Kerimov. "I have a lot of love for the people there," he says. "This club really do everything to make life good. They take care of you and you want for nothing.
"It was just the case that I was alone all the time. It was difficult. For one year you are alone at home just watching TV or something. I don't think that was the life for me. So I started to think that I wanted to come back."
Samba is optimistic about Anzhi's prospects after they signed Brazilian playmaker Willian from Shakhtar Donetsk. He says: "The owner is investing so much into this club, it's going places and you'd have to be crazy to leave. I had three years left there on a big salary. Obviously, going to QPR is not to make more money. Not at all. All the talk about money is just nonsense.
"I missed my family and wanted to be back with my boys. All the money in the world cannot make you the happiest man. I think for your life to be complete you need to have two sides. If you can enjoy your football and have your loved ones close with you – that's all you want."
At Blackburn, Samba would regularly rent out a box and bring up to 30 people to come and watch him. His Cheshire house was not only home to him, his wife Teresa, and young sons Tyrone and Floyd, but also to his two brothers.
"That's who I am," he says. "We are all together all the time. That's how it should be. In that respect it was very difficult to be alone in Russia, but it was still a fantastic experience to have."
Apart from the loneliness, there were banana-throwing incidents at matches and he was targeted along with Brazilian team-mate Roberto Carlos.
"At Anzhi there was never any problem. It was only when we travelled to some of the other clubs that there was trouble with racist chants, but we never had problem with the Anzhi fans. If I was to advise any other [black] players to go to a club, I'd say you have to go Anzhi."
The 28-year-old says it's taken some time to adjust to the pace of the Premier League again, but insists he is much fitter than when he made his QPR debut against Norwich City in a 0-0 draw at Loftus Road back on 2 February.
"It's much more difficult for a defender in England because of the aggressive tempo," he says. "That's why it's the hardest league in the world to play in."
Even harder when you're fighting for your top-flight survival. Successive defeats to Swansea City and Manchester United have left QPR seven points adrift of safety with only 11 matches to play.
Samba says: "It's not the best position we are in. It was, I would say, a little bit rushed the way we work together. We didn't have much time to try to be effective very quickly."
The other half of the "we" is Redknapp. It was very much about the former Tottenham manager's persistent interest that sold Samba on the idea of a relegation scrap. "I spoke with Harry a lot. He'd tried to take me before, and that didn't happen, but I know Harry wanted me to work for him for a long time."
The other man who brought Samba back to England was the one who financed it, QPR chairman Tony Fernandes. "Tony showed great belief in me and I will try to pay him back, and it's about this. I've been bought for a reason. It's because they believe I can make a difference. I certainly believe that I can lead this team."
Samba's honest enough to admit it might not be possible to rescue QPR, but will fight to the death – starting with Saturday's visit to face Southampton at St Mary's.
"I only know one way and that is to give everything," he says, a quality which not everyone in Redknapp's squad can claim. "It's been difficult. When I arrived I think it was something like two wins in 25 games," he recalls.
"It's about winning for us now. Draws are not good enough. We need to improve our efficiency. We need to have more understanding in the defence. There is a lot to improve, but we are working hard to improve. I'm really enjoying working with Harry. He's very open to talk with, and he really tries hard to find solutions on the pitch. If we are rewarded for our hard work, then we'll stay up."
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