Didier Deschamps on the World Cup: “The balance of the group comes before everything else.”

Speaking exclusively to TF1 journalist David Pujadas, Didier Deschamps did not beat around the bush. At Clairefontaine (the French national team’s training ground) he spoke about the recently called up squad, the players who missed out, his profession or even the toxic and violent nature of money within football.

On his World Cup Objective:

If I said I want to win, it would maybe come across as complacent, but that was already the case before the Euros and the World Cup in Brazil four years ago. We are competitors, so we want to go as far as possible. Why not go all the way? Of course, there are other nations who are better equipped than we are because they have more experience, like Spain, Germany, Brazil…

These players have already won plenty of trophies. My squad has a lot of young players. Of course they have a lot of talent, so I am not complaining, but for a lot of them, this will be their first major international tournament. We’ll be present too in our games. We know our first three opponents, and that our objective is to get out of our group and reach the round of 16. We remain ambitious, but maintain humility. Since the Euro 2016 final, the public has become more demanding. That has contributed to developing our ambition.

On whether having won the competition 20 years ago is useful:

My career as a whole has helped me as a coach. It was another generation, a different context. Another life. But I still have the same passion (smiling). Today, I am here to help the players. I am here for them and most importantly for the French national team. For me, there’s nothing better.

On his 23-man squad:

I will announce it on May 15th. Let’s say there are around four or five questions to be addressed. If I had all the players to the fullest of their abilities available right away, then my group would be different. We’ll assess this later on. For now, my job is to anticipate anything that might happen, while having a plan B, C and even D. Injuries could happen at the very last minute.

On Karim Benzema:

For me, Karim Benzema is not an issue. Why would he be? I’m here to make decisions. Decisions that pertain to what’s best for the French national team. My decisions are based off sporting merit, and not personal choices. If I coached Karim Benzema at club level like Zinedine Zidane, then obviously the situation would be different. But I coach a national team. Whatever happened, happened. When the story (involving the sextape) gained coverage in September 2015, we needed the French team to have no issue, and maintain a strong dynamic with results before the Euro. After reaching the final, we had to maintain it. I trusted players who met my expectations on and off the pitch. Why would I change that? The group comes before everything else.

On Dimitri Payet:

His absence from the team this time around doesn’t mean he won’t be called up on May 15th. But, the reality is that the players who I called up, will have the chance to express themselves on the pitch. They’ll have an advantage. I can’t call up more than 23 players. I also have to think about the balance of the team, and each person’s role. There is plenty of criteria to consider, but nothing is set in stone.

On the youth in this team:

They are not difficult to manage. They have different areas of interest compared to my generation. The important thing is to speak with them. I choose my words depending on who I speak with. You can’t stigmatize a generation by only talking about their shortcomings. They also have a lot of human qualities. Some are less than 20 years old, and wouldn’t be where they are without their ambition. That trust means that anything from the outside doesn’t really affect them. They forget those things quickly. But they need to be supervised to be protected.

His relationship with the players:

Most of them could be my children! Trust needs to be placed, and I’m here to encourage and defend them, but I’m also here to tell them what isn’t working. We can’t become friends.

On his state of mind:

Honestly, I’m not stressed. Those who are stressed and under pressure, are the ones who wake up at 6 am everyday to go work. I’m living my passion. I continue to feel the rush from games. I feel free. I feel fulfilled in this manager role.

On boundaries being overstepped:

It remains a sport, and from the beginning, is all about having fun. Rivalries are also demanding. But the environment can become physically and verbally violent. In the end, everyone is responsible for their actions. And there can be consequences on people and their families. I know what I’m talking about. (his house was tagged “Deschamps is Racist” during the Euros) That disgusted me. I can understand being criticised for sport-related reasons, but when it reaches me as a human being, then boundaries have been overstepped.

On money:

It’s indecent to talk about players’ salaries, especially compared to those who can barely make ends meet. But in the context of sport, football generates an enormous amount of money. The money that players earn, who are the actors in this form of entertainment, represents around 10% of the money. Without them, there’s no football. We need to be aware that football is generating more and more money due to the media, TV deals, partners and sponsors, fans.

Everything becomes expensive, life becomes expensive, prices go up. Unfortunately, salaries don’t go up for everyone. So I can understand that it’s shocking for everyone. I don’t know how this can stop though. Football interests more and more people. We are privileged people. We don’t worry about what tomorrow holds in store. That counts for a lot nowadays.



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