As reported by L’Équipe, Yahoo Sport FR and Euro United, Rennes manager Julien Stéphan is seriously considering his future as his relationship with president Olivier Létang continues to deteriorate.
3 weeks ago, Rennes won the Coupe de France… but now, internal tensions that brewed throughout the 2018/19 campaign are coming to a head.
Hatem Ben Arfa is, unsurprisingly, at the centre of the emerging internal disagreements. On Sunday, after a poor draw against relegated EA Guingamp, HBA stopped in the mixed zone to express his dissatisfaction about the quality of football offered by the club. Julien Stéphan asked President Létang to come out publicly and condemn HBA’s attacks on his own team but the former PSG representatives has refused to publicly speak about Ben Arfa.
Many at Rennes reproach Létang for his closeness to Hatem Ben Arfa. This was at the root of the sacking of former manager Sabri Lamouchi earlier this season, who several times viewed Ben Arfa’s attitude as unacceptable but Létang never acted in Lamouchi’s view on it. When he signed for the club, he was late and out of shape. Hatem was the choice of Létang, Lamouchi wanted Wahbi Khazri, who has gone on to be a standout player for St Étienne in their quest for European football. At training already in autumn, Ben Arfa came to blows with some team-mates and members of staff. Following this, Lamouchi demanded sanctions against Hatem – Létang refused. In the following days, Hatem refused to shake Lamouchi’s hand. Lamouchi refused to accept this behaviour – he demanded a meeting with the president: choose between Lamouchi or Ben Arfa. A few hours later, Lamouchi was sacked.
Julien Stéphan came in and part of his mission was to build the team around Ben Arfa and put the former Nice and PSG man in the best conditions to express his potential. This was a risky strategy that threatened to alienate the rest of the squad, who do not necessarily appreciate HBA’s attitude. The first bump in their relationship came after a Europa League match when Ben Arfa claimed to be too tired and refused to participate in the 24 hour pre-match routine. Stéphan made it clear that if he did not, he could not play. President Létang tried to intervene, but the coach refused to submit to that pressure and put Ben Arfa on the bench, he would not play.
There is an agreement between Létang and Stéphan that if the club were to finish in the top 7, the coach, who is under contract until 2020, would receive an extension and a wage hike. With the Coupe de France won, his work widely praised, the Rennes coach expected an extension offer which still has yet to arrive. Stéphan made himself clear to the press yesterday that he no longer wanted to tolerate such public displays of dissatisfaction with his own team that Ben Arfa displayed at the weekend.
As reported by Euro United, Stéphan’s agent Jean-Pierre Bernès has been proposing him to a series of other Ligue 1 clubs, with Bilel Ghazi claiming that Lyon particularly appreciate the young coach’s profile. As for Ben Arfa, he is closer and closer to a move to La Liga.