France put on brave face after Santini bombshell

4th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 4 (AFP) - French football officials were putting on a brave face Friday after national coach Jacques Santini's bombshell announcement he was leaving after Euro 2004 to take over as Tottenham manager.

PARIS, June 4 (AFP) - French football officials were putting on a brave face Friday after national coach Jacques Santini's bombshell announcement he was leaving after Euro 2004 to take over as Tottenham manager.

The news came just 10 days before France faced England in their opening match in the championships in Lisbon.

"There's no panic," said French federation president Claude Simonet, whose refusal to extend Santini's contract before the European championships led to Santini looking for a new job.

"He obviously felt his conditions, which I cannot reveal, were not satisfactory but in professional sport every man is free to leave.

"Mr Santini has obviously forgotten the clause in his contract which stipulated we would extend his contract to 2006 if we had a good Euro 2004."

Simonet said that Santini's replacement should be known by mid-July.

"France's first friendly will be in Rennes on August 18 against Ghana. So the new coach will have to be known immediately after mid-July," added Simonet.

Former manager Michel Platini said Santani had phoned him to seek his advice.

"After what happened with Roger Lemerre we couldn't afford to take another risk," said the French federation vice-president.

"But I wish him good luck."

And he was not worried the news would affect the players.

"They're professionals with big clubs. They know what they have to do."Lemerre had to be paid off after the disastrous 2002 World Cup when France became the first defending champions to fail to score a goal and went home after two defeats and a draw.

Lemerre, who took over from 1998 World Cup-winning coach Aime Jacquet, had won Euro 2000 and his contract had been extended before the 2002 tournament.

Santini, who had coached Lyon to their first league title, took over and revived French fortunes. They qualiified for Euro 2004 by winning every match

Bayern Munich right-back Willy Sagnol said Santini had told the players on Thursday before announcing his move.

"We weren't surprised. His negotiations with the federation never seemed to end and he likes everyone to know where they stand, which wasn't the case with Lemerre.

"The English didn't hesitate to extend (Sven Goran) Eriksson's contract and they didn't worry about any possible compensation payments," Sagnol added.

"It was better to find out now than in the middle of the Euro."

Arsenal star Robert Pires said: "His greatest strength is that he pays attention to every single player. He talks to them and lets everyone know exactly what he wants from them and where they stand."

Didier Deschamps, France's 1998 World Cup winning-captain and coach of Champions League finalists Monaco, former Fulham manager Jean Tigana, France
Under 21 coach Raymond Domenech and Japan's 2002 World Cup coach Philippe Troussier were favourites to succeed Santini.

Sacked Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier was believed to be out of the frame. Houllier still lives with the tag of being the coach who blew France's chances of reaching the 1994 World Cup when they lost their last qualifying match to Bulgaria at the Parc des Princes.

France open their 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign against Israel on September 4.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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