This summer Get French Football News will be bringing you dozens of exclusive, in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers of French football. Today, AS Monaco’s full-back Marcel Tisserand reveals all.
In 2013, you signed your first professional contract for AS Monaco. Take us through what you were feeling then?
I was very happy, because it was the club where I came through the youth team. I did all my classes there, and to finish all that with a professional contract was exceptional.
What were your ambitions when you signed that contract?
I signed at the moment when a revolution was happening, as the new investors just arrived at the club. The club was climbing back from Ligue 2 to Ligue 1. James and Falcao arrived. Initially, I tried to make a place for myself in the squad and then to integrate myself and then see, why not, if I could get some playing time.
Were you disappointed, even if it might sound strange, that the club got promoted to Ligue 1 and a new project was formed? Do you think that it has slowed down your personal progress at Monaco?
Not at all, because it allowed me to rub shoulders with great players and so certainly to learn things, whether it was with Eric Abidal or Carvalho. With them, I learnt a lot of things on a daily basis. Even if I didn’t play a lot in the first six months, I learnt a lot and I think that that has served me well up until now.
After 6 months at Monaco, you joined RC Lens. Why move on, was the competition too tough at Monaco? Did the manager at the time, Mr Ranieri, not count on you enough?
No, I think that for my first 6 months in Ligue 1, it was not all that bad the amount of playing time that I had. It was not enormous, but I still started two matches. To be in the squad was already good. We were only two youngsters in that squad. I would have liked to play more, like every player, but it really was not that bad.
In order to progress, I spoke to Mr Ranieri, and we agreed that a loan could be interesting for the next six months before returning to Monaco with assurances that I would have an interesting place in the squad, if not a starting place. After my time at Lens, he sadly left the club and the project was a bit different. The initial project was interesting. I would have really liked to have left for 6 months to toughen up before coming back to impose myself at Monaco.
Why did you choose Lens at the time?
I had a very good discussion with Mr Kombouaré, I spoke to him on the phone three or four times. I was also told good things about that club, we all know the history of RC Lens, the nature of their supporters and the buzz surrounding the club. Frankly that made me want to go there, even if the club was in Ligue 2.
On a personal level, what did you learn over there?
I learnt a lot in terms of the the virtues of combativeness, to fight for a set of fans who wanted promotion to Ligue 1. There, people give everything for a club. We made it so that we were fighting for them, we tried not to lose a single match because that would have had massive repercussions on the fans. For the people over there, RC Lens is their life. There is a lot of emotion and that what a learnt a lot about. It is a shame that I couldn’t continue over there because it is a superb club.
Do you think that you could have experienced and learnt about the emotions that you felt at Lens at a club like Monaco?
From a Monegasque point of view, there are not necessarily the same supporters as there are at Lens. But it is different: at Lens, there is nothing but football so necessarily people are all at the stadium. At Monaco, there are great players and a fantastic stadium, even if it is not always full.
That does not mean that I quit Monaco for Lens. As I said, I had to play in order to gain experience, to make my own mistakes and to learn how to eradicate them. Lens was ideal because I got on very well with the coach and the team was quite young. The fan base was just a bonus. What I got at Lens, I could have had at Monaco, if I had more experience.
With regards to Antoine Kombouaré, what will you remember about him, his way of coaching, his character?
Antoine Kombouaré has a frank way of speaking and I like it a lot. He doesn’t hide how he feels, when he has something to tell you, he will say it to your face. It was that that allowed me to progress, because when something was not right, he would tell me. Even though I came from Monaco, he always told me things. When I was not good, he told me I was not good. When things were going well, he would also tell me. It is that which allowed me to progress. He was a defender, I am one too. He taught me many things.
At Lens, you rubbed shoulders with young players in the same situation as you. Loïck Landre came from PSG… Did this reassure you that you were making the right move?
The difference with Loïck Landre, is that he had already undergone several loan spells at Clermont and Ajaccio notably before joining Lens. He already knew Ligue 2 well. Me, I was just coming into the world of professional football. It is not that it reassured me more. He was initially loaned to Clermont and then to Gazelec and it is thanks to these matches in Ligue 2 that he was able to succeed at RC Lens.
I don’t know if the stature of the player, having come from PSG, helped him to win a place more quickly in the team. There were a lot of youngsters, and we maybe lacked a bit of experience at certain times but we helped each other a lot. That was our aim, and that allowed us to win promotion to Ligue 1.
Was this period at RC Lens for you a period of transition from the world of amateur football to the world of professional football?
It was important for me, because I became a professional at Monaco, with a lot of experienced players in the dressing room. I was very young and was surrounded by very experienced players who had won lots of titles. I was impressed. When I arrived at Lens, everyone was the same age as me and we were therefore on a level playing field. Sometimes, I was one of the ones who had the most experience. From one month to the next, I went from one dressing room where I was there youngest in the team to a more equal team in terms of experience so obviously it was easier. Despite that, I keep with me very good memories of my time there.
After your time at Lens, you proceed to Monaco who had a busy summer transfer window with the notable departures of James and Falcao. What was it like to train everyday with these players?
It was a very high level. There wasn’t just them, Toulalan, Abidal and Carvalho were also very strong. In 6 months, I learned an enormous amount, whether it was technically or in terms of the intelligence of my play. How to have the ball more often, how to lose the ball as little as possible, to control possession, and to be technically adroit and make the right choices. I have good memories of this period. I hope to be able to sample this level again very soon. These loans allowed me to grow and I hope to come back to Monaco to participate with the sorts of players we have mentioned more often.
What are your thoughts on the transfer policy pursued by Vadim Vasilyev? Do you think Monaco counts on its youth academy?
I think we have seen the success that his policy has brought this season. We have seen certain youngsters being part of the first team squad, to be part of the 18-man squad, to be on the bench, it is progression. Monaco’s policy has always been like that: believe in the youngsters without burning them out by integrating them little by little. The Russians remained on this track, despite the transfers that occurred.
As one of these young players, do you think you are as important in the minds of the Monaco representatives as Anthony Martial or Layvin Kurzawa are?
I think that they have an advantage because they have had the opportunity to play in the Champions League and had a very good season. I was loaned out, now I am coming back and it is up to me – even if I was formed here – to show that I deserve to be alongside them.
Do you discuss your current situation with Sporting Director Luis Campos?
He is an important individual at the heart of the club. We will see during the inter-season. I think he will be here next season, of course. I don’t know what is in his head, you know, everything goes very quickly in football. I hope he will be here in any case because he is an important factor in the club’s progression. Since his arrival, the club has been working well.
And now for your most recent loan with Toulouse. What did that experience give you?
I would have liked that this spell gave me a little more than what I received, unfortunately I encountered some injuries that held me back a little. In terms of the team, we did not have a super season because we were fighting relegation. Apart from that, I met some super guys here too. On a football level, I would have liked that it went a little better than it did. We could have had a better season.
What do you think this was down to?
I don’t know if you followed but we changes manager, we played in one tactical setup and then another. There were lots of foreigners, some had issues adapting themselves… We struggled a little to juggle all that. The club struggled to replace key players that left at the end of the previous season. There were several factors. It was a difficult season but there are positives that can be drawn from it. When you fight in order not to be relegated, you have your backs against the wall and so you fight a little harder.
What was the thinking behind joining Toulouse?
I wanted to stay on the wave of continuity that I had formed at Lens where I had enjoyed 6 interesting months, so I wanted to continue to progress positively. My aim was to win game time. I played 13 matches with Lens, I wanted to play a few more here and today I have achieved that. Each year I want to increase my number of matches, to win playing time and experience.
We had a season that really was not easy, we had to fight with several teams in order not to get relegated, which wasn’t straightforward. I had the opportunity, if you can call it that, to encounter two managers at Toulouse who had themselves different ideas, which certainly allowed me to learn different things. As a young player, I am learning too. This is not a bad thing for me, I was still in my apprenticeship period so to speak in order to come back to Monaco with more experience. This experience was difficult to deal with but I am trying to take the positive things away from it.
This was your first season in Ligue 1. Do you think you have what it takes to play in this league in the future?
I think so, yes. Admittedly, Ligue 1 is a championship which is far from easy where you have to concentrate the whole time. I think that I can have the capacity to succeed in Ligue 1.
Are you happy with your playing time in Ligue 1 thus far?
Honestly, I would have liked to play more. But knowing that I got injured and that I did not partake properly in pre-season preparation, my game time is not bad. I had a short period of preparation with Lens, then I came back to Monaco, then I went to Toulouse where I didn’t really get to prepare… During the first pre-season friendly, I got injured. I had a really peculiar pre-season and so the beginning of the season was not easy for me. I tried to catch up what I had lost but I would have liked it to go differently. Next time, I will try to be a little quicker in my decision-making in between seasons so that I can enable myself to prepare well.
I have studied your matches and I have noticed that you have played on the right, on the left and even sometimes in the midfield. Do you consider yourself as a versatile individual or do you just play where the coach tells you to play?
I can play a little bit everywhere. As I have told you, at Lens I was also deployed at centre back. It doesn’t bother me but my position at the youth academy was right-back. It is the position that I want to play in, it is the position where I feel most comfortable, where I think I can perform the best. It doesn’t hinder me that I can play in the middle or on the left, admittedly. For my debut with Monaco, I played on the left…
What does the future hold for Marcel Tisserand?
For the moment, I an expected to return to Monaco for pre-season. As this is the case, it is my aim to be successful with them. We will see at the end of pre-season what is on offer but I want to return and impose myself at Monaco, that is my aim. I want to succeed at Monaco and play a lot of game to gain experience. Above all I want to succeed there because of the visibility a player can get at Monaco, is not the same as it is at Toulouse or Lens. I want to show my abilities and do great things.
What do you plan to do to convince Leonardo Jardim that you deserve a spot in the Monaco team?
It will all begin with good preparation, where I will have the chance to show him that I am better than what he currently has in my position. I need to show him that I deserve to be there. I have never played for him, even if we’ve spoken a little bit. He knows me, He sees who I am and he will have seen my matches. But you get to know a player better when he is under your management, when you are seeing his work face to face instead of when he is elsewhere.
[PHOTO: France Bleu]