Speaking in an exclusive interview with L’Équipe, Crystal Palace midfielder Yohan Cabaye discussed his mixed fortunes with respect to the French national team in recent times, among other things.
You are playing for Crystal Palace who is fighting for survival in the Premier League, you have not been called up to the French National team since Euro 2016. So, a simple question to start: how are you doing?
(Smiling) Very well. This season, with Crystal Palace, has been very difficult. The results are quite poor, but we are working hard to overcome this and lift the team. But that’s football, it’s alright.
We have barely spoken about you recently in France. Does that bother you?
Like I said, the results are poor, so it makes sense. But I still have high targets set for myself, and one thing needs to be clear: I will not give up. I am not finished, I am only 31 years old, and I feel very, very good.
For the first time in a while, Didier Deschamps did not call you up to the French national team in November and preferred Adrien Rabiot. How did you live that?
The French national team has always been an objective for me. It still is. I lived some great moments, and I hope for even more. I have a background and experience. I do not think I should throw that all away.
However, it’s still important to be realistic. My club’s results are worse, and there are also players hitting top form. I play in a position where there is a lot of, if not the most, competition. But I have not given up. I will not give up now, and I will never give up.
Since 2011, even if your inclusion has been contested, you have been a key part of the French national team. You were most notably a part of Didier Deschamps’ French team that played against Ukraine in November 2013 [3-0 during the second leg in World Cup qualifiers]. Did the coach call you to warn you?
There will always be criticism, and honestly, I have no problem accepting them. But since 2011, I have won 48 caps, and during the 48 games, I have never really messed up. No one can take what I have done for the national team away from me.
But did Didier Deschamps call you?
Yes, I spoke with him.
Did that discussion give you hope for the future?
(Smiling) I always have hope.
Before this November, the Euros took place. Right before the competition, you lost your spot to N’Golo Kanté. How did this demotion feel to you?
The Euros were an incredible experience. However, from a personal point of view, it was frustrating [two games, one start]. But I was there with a different role. I kept that role and personally, despite that, I really enjoyed myself.
Right before the quarter-final against Iceland [5-2], in spite of yourself, you were in the news. To make a long story short, your ex-wife with whom you have three daughters, laid into your new partner, who is pregnant, on social media. How did you live that?
First and foremost, it’s my private life, and, personally, I did my best to keep it private. It’s the first and last time that I will talk about this subject. It was a very bad moment to live, that’s for sure. It really hurt me, and it really hurt my family and close ones.
There were plenty and plenty of lies. I did not want to talk about it because my children were caught in the middle of it. I wanted to protect them.
Were you able to come out of this without too many consequences?
It’s in times like this, where I find strength. It’s when I think about my girls. It’s when I know that I give everything to protect them.
During your time at PSG between January 2014 and June 2015, did these personal problems prevent you from being able to impose yourself?
Yes, I think it needs to be taken into consideration. I never complained and never spoke about it. These things can happen to everyone. But, it was definitely harder having to put up with a certain kind of “harassment” at the time, as opposed to now, where things seemed to have settled a bit, if I may say so myself.
Since leaving PSG for Crystal Palace, you never expressed any frustration in regards to this experience. Do you regret not being able to pass this milestone?
I have no resentment. I took it positively because it’s the only way to progress. But of course, I am disappointed. I am disappointed in myself. Because I never give up, and I always want to show that I can be counted on.
I had to leave the club to be able to play and develop. I do not have anything against anyone. That’s how football is. I do not want to be weak and look for excuses.
During the Euros, you were quite heavily criticized. How did it feel being the one that no one wanted to see anymore?
(Smiling) As I said earlier, there will always be criticism, and I have always accepted them. Plus, they give also strength.
You are absolutely perfect in your response. Is that because you owe it yourself to be exemplary like that? Does it not make you a bit angry on the inside?
It gives me strength, but part of why it gives me strength, is because it makes me angry. Of course it makes me angry. I would be lying if I said that all was well. By getting angry, I want to come back.
And coming back means proving that I am here for a reason. Not just because I am a nice guy. Anyways, I do not think I was criticized after my game against Switzerland [0-0].
You were contacted by Marseille during the winter. Were you at all interested?
It’s flattering because Marseille is one of the big French clubs. But I have my life in London, my club, and I remain focused on that.
Okay, but were you at all interested?
(Smiling) It’s flattering, really. I have a lot of respect for Rudi (Garcia), as a coach and as a person. But we also need to be realistic. I’m in a complicated situation with the club. All that I can say is that my only tie to Marseille, is that my daughter is born in the city. That’s it.