French legend Zinedine Zidane has refuted rumours that he still holds a decisive sway within the France dressing room amidst specualtion that the former midfield great may have directly influenced the French World Cup squad’s recent decision to challenge the authority of coach Raymond Domenech.
The remaining 22-man ‘collective’ refused to train yesterday, following Domenech’s exiling of striker Nicolas Anelka – who was sent home after rowing with his superior during France’s dismal World Cup defeat and the hands of Mexico last Thursday.
All of the players have since returned to training this morning, but the fevered autopsy in the French media is showing no signs of abating yet.
In a tournament campaign dogged by rumours of insubordinance and subterfuge, reports surfaced in the French media that it was Zidane that may have instructed the players to strike over Anelka’s removal from the squad and that the former Real Madrid maestro (who retired under a cloud in 2006) may have also interfered with Les Bleus‘ team selection whilst played for the national team under Domenech.
However, the man himself has hit back by claiming the various media suggestions to be completely fabricated;
“Thinking that I can call the players to put pressure on the coach four years after I have retired is serious.
I never had a problem with Domenech – I also never had a good feeling about him, But I respected his instructions. As captain, I was talking, but he was the coach and I respected the rules.
I never gave my opinion on the composition of the team. I have always respected the rules.”
The 38-year-old then went on to voice his opposition to the actions of the current French squad yesterday, voicing his opposition to the strike – and also expressed his hopes for a more harmonious future;
“I am against the fact that Les Bleus do not train – but I’m not inside group. That’s why it’s better for me to be quiet.
There’s a new coach in Laurent Blanc (who is poised to take over from Domenech after the World Cup) who will change all of this. I don’t think you can blame one player or another but Blanc’s arrival will change everything that is happening within the team.”
Following their failure to turn up against Mexico, France are currently on the brink of slumping to an early exit. However, Zidane believes that a decent showing in their final group game against hosts South Africa could turn the tide for France – despite it looking distinctly unlikely if their previous form is anything to go by;
“Even if that many people will laugh, I hope to see France in the final. I am disappointed by the first results of Les Bleus but anything is possible.
There is still a small chance for the team to emerge victorious from this group.”
Steady on there Zizou!
I can’t help but feel that the obvious trauma he suffered when Marco Materazzi mercilessly slammed his breastbone into the unsuspecting Frenchman’s cranium almost exactly four years ago, may have effected the great man’s judgement somewhat!