Domenech’s return to soccer as Nantes coach revives ghosts of France’s 2010 World Cup catastrophe


It’s not the Christmas current Nantes followers had been hoping for, and the response to the announcement of Raymond Domenech’s appointment because the membership’s new supervisor has been brutal and even violent at instances. His contract is just by means of the tip of the 2020-21 season as Nantes have to stabilize — they’re solely three factors above the relegation zone in Ligue 1 forward of the Breton Derby vs. Rennes on Jan. 6 — however the hostility has been notable since his appointment on Dec. 26.

It has been 27 years since Domenech’s final sport as a membership supervisor, when he was in control of Lyon towards Zinedine Zidane (the participant) and Bordeaux, and greater than 10 years after his final sport as nationwide workforce head coach with France towards South Africa on the 2010 World Cup. That event stays indelible within the minds of French soccer followers each for the on-field mediocrity and off-field drama. After their ultimate sport that summer season, a 2-1 group stage defeat towards the event hosts, Domenech refused to shake fingers with their coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, as a result of six months earlier, the Brazilian had stated les Bleus shouldn’t have certified for the competitors as a result of Thierry Henry “cheated” along with his handball towards Eire.

That is Domenech in a nutshell: typically resentful and bitter, he by no means forgets something. He reads the whole lot written about him; he additionally watches and listens to the whole lot stated about him. He is extremely smart, an ideal talker, charming when he needs to be and loves an argument. He is additionally essentially the most divisive coach in French soccer’s historical past after his tenure as France head coach between 2004 and 2010.

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That six-year saga with the French nationwide workforce is unequalled relating to Domenech’s profession within the sport. He began his tenure so badly, regardless of having gamers like Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, Patrick Vieira and David Trezeguet in his squad, that France had been vulnerable to lacking the 2006 World Cup. It was a time when Domenech would, for instance, clarify that he could not play two defenders who had Leo star indicators in the identical workforce. It would not be the primary or the final time that Domenech, a believer in astrology, used it to select his groups.

To avoid wasting the nation from embarrassment, Zinedine Zidane, Claude Makelele and Lilian Thuram got here out of worldwide retirement and took the workforce to Germany 2006. As soon as there, Zidane took cost of the squad and even stopped speaking to Domenech, however les Bleus famously misplaced the ultimate towards Italy on penalties and Zidane was despatched off for head-butting Marco Materrazzi. Domenech by no means accepted that folks did not give him credit score for the workforce reaching the ultimate.

Ultimately, the post-Zidane period would show to be even more durable for Domenech and France. After a pathetic elimination within the group stage of Euro 2008, by which Domenech by no means managed to take care of the tensions between his squad’s youthful stars (Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema) and older gamers (Thuram, Willy Sagnol, Makelele), he thought it was a good suggestion within the final sport’s post-match interview reside on French TV to ask his girlfriend to marry him as an alternative of taking any accountability for the fiasco or providing any clarification for it. (Later, he claimed “it was an error in communication. I felt a second of humanity after I ought to have stayed chilly {and professional}.”)

The 2010 World Cup cycle was the apparent nadir. There was the sport towards Eire by which Henry’s handball put France into the event, the fall-out with Henry and Anelka and the gamers’ strike on the event, all of which swirled round Les Bleus’ group-stage exit, with one draw towards Uruguay and defeats to Mexico and South Africa.

Domenech’s contract with the French nationwide workforce expired after that event and since then, he has centered on theatre and appearing, serving as an occasional pundit on his spouse’s TV present and being the top of the managers’ union. Although he was by no means removed from controversy. He complained when Nantes selected to nominate Claudio Ranieri again in the summertime of 2017, delaying his appointment provided that he felt the Italian was too outdated to teach in Ligue 1. Certainly, Ranieri was 65 on the time when the age restrict for teaching was 65 in France. The previous Leicester boss acquired a derogation and everybody was advantageous with it, aside from Domenech.

The entire argument prompted Ranieri to reply in a press convention: “Domenech? If he needs to speak to me about theatre, then perhaps I’d pay attention. But when he needs to speak to me about soccer, then I’ll by no means ever take heed to him.” The video clip went viral on social media as soon as it was reposted just a few days in the past earlier than Domenech’s appointment; oh, and Domenech turns 69 on the finish of January.

To say that his return to membership administration is a shock is a large understatement. No-one noticed this one coming and no-one wished to imagine it. But Waldemar Kita, the controversial Nantes proprietor, made it occur.

Why Domenech? It has little to do along with his managerial talents given his prolonged absence from the job. The extra probably reply is related to his character, and Kita loves characters. It is also a giant publicity coup for the membership. Kita, who made his fortune in beauty surgical procedure, is aware of too effectively that there isn’t a such factor as dangerous publicity at the same time as Nantes’ die-hard followers overtly root for him to promote the membership. (Fan protests over Kita’s possession earlier in December even required riot police and tear fuel to disperse supporters.) When you’re speaking about his membership and about him, he’s comfortable.

Domenech additionally knew that his appointment would set off numerous anger, however he loves the eye in addition to the problem. His remarks in regards to the new job had been diplomatic and spoke to his love of a tough scenario: “I am wanting ahead to working with the workers and doing the whole lot potential to make sure that the membership regain its rightful standing.” He loves when there’s adversity. (In that respect, he and Kita are literally very comparable.)

Will they be a match made in heaven? Solely time will inform. Nantes are at present in sixteenth place in Ligue 1, three factors forward of the relegation zone. They haven’t received in eight video games (4 attracts and 4 losses) and there is a lot work to be achieved to regular the ship, not to mention making an attempt to make this season a constructive one. His first coaching session on Wednesday was wrecked by followers blaring “Welcome to the circus!” by way of a loud-speaker because the gamers went by means of their routines, an ominous signal of issues to come back.

As a participant within the Nineteen Seventies and 80s, Domenech constructed a repute for being one of many nastiest defenders within the league. If he can cross on a few of this angle, this Nantes workforce may enhance. Nonetheless, his appointment has introduced again outdated recollections, among the worst in French soccer historical past, and has confirmed once more that relating to Domenech, controversy is rarely far-off.



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