It would seem an obvious ploy to keep a low profile after a qualification campaign that ended in such controversy. But not this French team. It has been reported that divisions within the squad have reached an unprecedented high and respect for the manager, Raymond Domenech, an all time low.
Unbelievably it has been suggested that in their recent friendly against Costa Rica Nicolas Anelka refused to pass to Yoann Gourcuff and Franck Ribery was equally selective about the destination of the ball. The supposed reason for this is that the players would rather see their talisman, Thierry Henry, and Abou Diaby have a place in the starting XI instead of Gourcuff and Sidney Govou, who are Domenech’s choices.
Of course these are only rumblings but Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna and Chelsea’s Florent Malouda have publicly stated one problem we are all certain exists; a distinct lack of squad harmony.
“We have to create links between players,” Malouda said, “we can’t just think, ‘I’m not interested in what others do’. We are going to look ridiculous if, as we did at Euro 2008, each player stays in his comfort zone aiming only for good marks from the media to the detriment of the team.”
Sagna was less vocal about the collective responsibility and stated what he believes is Domenech’s biggest problem:
“We can maybe give him some advice or help but even if we were to offer it I don’t think he would listen.”
The player’s don’t trust his judgment and expect to be ignored. I have little sympathy for Raymond Domenech, though. This is a manager who infamously stated his belief in astrology has an influence on his football:
“When I have got a Leo in defence, I’ve always got my gun ready, as I know he’s going to want to show off at one moment or another and cost us… all parameters have to be considered and I have added one by saying there is astrology involved.”
Domenech has been manager since 2004, taking over from Jacques Santini and with his appointment Robert Pires’ international career ended – Pires is a Scorpio. I think it’s fair to claim France’s route to the last World Cup final was less to do with Domenech and more to do with Zidane, who came out of international retirement in shockingly sublime fashion (he was also rumoured to have heavy influence in strategy and, unbelievably, team selection). Even then it was clear Zidane had far more respect and authority amongst the players than the manager did. And now, history’s penchant for repetition is bordering on monotonous as the players’ mutiny will probably precipitate Thierry Henry’s inclusion in the team.
Despite the obvious immaturity on show, I can’t blame the players for showing no respect to a manager who allows star signs to have any influence on his team selection. Robert Pires, David Trezeguet, Ludovic Giuly, Nicolas Anelka and Bacary Sagna have all questioned Domenech’s managerial capacity publicly. It could just be that the players have a long established scapegoat and that Domenech is the easiest target. But he is an easy target for a reason.
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