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.”