FEATURE | Hervé Renard – how the least talked about Frenchman at this summer’s World Cup might spring the biggest surprise

“Pedigree” at international tournaments is commonly associated with a squad of players who go to represent their country. But perhaps less frequently mentioned, is the pedigree of the manager.

It’s therefore hard to argue against any lack of pedigree when it comes to Hervé Renard; a man perhaps best described as an enigma when it comes to football management. Having experienced fairly unsuccessful spells at domestic clubs ranging from Cambridge United in 2004 to, more recently, Lille in 2015; it seems that looking back at the Frenchman’s beginnings and influences as a coach, he was only destined for one thing.

African international management may seem somewhat of a strange and specialist field to thrive in, but it’s what he does best. The Aix-les-Bains born coach was shaping up to manage teams like Zambia, Côte D’Ivoire and now Morocco, long before he took the reins. Passed from one Frenchman to another it seems, were the tricks and tools of managing on this specific continent.

Claude Le Roy, was Renard’s mentor and tutor during his early years and it’s always recommended to learn from the best. Le Roy, currently managing the Togo national team, has coached 6 different African nations in an almost 4-decade long career. Currently doubling the tally of the man whom was dubbed as his so called protégé in Renard.

Renard took what was passed to him from a legend of African football and made it his own, but not without keeping the essentials. Le Roy prided himself in absorbing and understanding the culture and style of whatever country he managed, and this is something his apprentice has consistently displayed. There are many great stories that his former players share about how Renard coached him.

While in charge of Zambia, Renard used to come into the dressing room with the team and play local Zambian music which he had taken interest in. Another iconic moment occurred when he guided the Ivorian national side to an Africa Cup of Nations title in 2015. Renard performed the victory and celebration dance with the players and the crowd, almost seeming as though he was part of the squad.

His genuine passion for the game and for team and country is always clearly visible, whether he is dancing with the players or barking orders at them on the pitch; something which he does very passionately, commonly never shying away from squaring up to his own players and giving them his own version of the “hairdryer treatment”.

But it is not that Renard is always angry at his players, these are his methods for motivating and encouraging some of the people in his team. Renard has a fantastic ability to create a strong and healthy spirit within the team wherever he goes, a strength that is vital for any team entering an international tournament.

Well known for the white shirt he wears on the side-lines which some say gives him luck, Renard will have his first glimpse of a World Cup and with a Moroccan side in which over 40% of its players have featured in the French domestic leagues. These include well-known names such as defender Mehdi Benatia, who will be coming off of the back of another league title with Juventus.

The experienced centre back was the x factor in Morocco’s astonishing defensive record coming into the competition, having not conceded a single goal in a route to qualification that included facing sides such as the Ivory Coast and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon.

Since Renard took over as the coach of Morocco in February 2016, he has invested a lot of effort into recruitment of new blood into the squad – something often overlooked when discussing the keys to success at international management.

He has been able to convince players to join the ranks of the squad such as young Feyenoord midfielder Sofyan Amrabat and tricky Schalke attacker Amine Harit; both of which represented the Netherlands (Amrabat) and France (Harit) at youth level, but decided to choose to join the Lions of the Atlas and their coach.

Being the only ever manager to win the AFCON with two separate teams is no mean feat, something even his mentor, Le Roy, has been unable to achieve. A Renard team is one that grows from strength to strength as they progress through a tournament, and always bear his trademark fiery attitude that he transfers so well onto the pitch. It’s perhaps this particular firebrand style of management that works best on the international stage, but stutters to failure in longer-term domestic, club jobs that he has previously held.

Morocco head to Russia knowing that they won’t be the favourites to progress from their group containing European heavyweights, Portugal and Spain. But for a coach like Renard, you should perhaps think twice before betting against the Frenchman and his lucky white shirt.

His side kick things off tomorrow against Iran.



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