Laurent Blanc says France has no great players

Coach Laurent Blanc says that France no longer has any great
players, and has called on future stars to put their development as
young players ahead of short-term financial gain.

Blanc won the World Cup and the European Championship as a
defender during France’s heyday a decade ago. That team was packed
with players who were stars at the biggest European clubs.

”For the moment we don’t have any great players in our national
team,” Blanc said in an interview with The Associated Press.
”What’s for certain is that we haven’t got there yet, we’re not
ready.”

Blanc thinks only Chelsea’s Florent Malouda and Bayern Munich’s
Franck Ribery are close to that level. Encouragingly, Arsenal
midfielder Samir Nasri is on the way to joining them.

”We have a few players who are playing in big clubs, who are
maybe in the process of becoming great players. We have to be
patient, we have to help them to blossom,” Blanc said. ”If we can
have three or four players blossoming in big clubs, that gives us a
solid platform and a strong identity to our game, that would be the
first step. But we’re far away from that.”

France’s 1998 World Cup winning team went on to win the European
Championship two years later. Those teams included players who
stood out at club level, such as Juventus pair Didier Deschamps and
Zinedine Zidane, AC Milan defender Marcel Desailly, Arsenal
midfielders Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, and Inter Milan
forward Youri Djorkaeff.

Though there is talent on the current team, Blanc is concerned
about how it’s developed. He believes that promising teenagers
should think twice before joining a big club in England’s Premier
League, as it may just lead to years on the bench.

As an example, 19-year-old winger Gael Kakuta is France’s most
highly rated young player. Yet he has made only three league
appearances and one start in three seasons so far at Chelsea, while
other members of France’s under-19 European Championship-winning
team – forward Alexandre Lacazette and central midfielder Clement
Grenier – are breaking into Lyon’s first team.

”At that age the most important thing is to improve, to play
and to learn, rather than getting an attractive transfer to a club
in the big four or the big five (of the Premier League),” Blanc
said. ”They’ll train once or twice a week with the first team but
will never play in the first team. What’s the point of that?”

Blanc fears it’s getting harder to persuade young players to
stay home.

”You have to make the youngsters understand that they may have
been noticed by a big European club, but they’re only 17 or 18 and
not even in the first team of the French club they’re at,” Blanc
said. ”If you think about the ideal progression, it’s not the
right choice. (But) we’re not in control of the lad or his
entourage.”