Blaise Matuidi’s surprising admirer


Blaise Matuidi has many admirers. Us and Carlo Ancelloti among them.

But he also has a surprising fan boy.

Pep Guardiola.

At first glance, Blaise doesn’t possess the ideal qualities of a Pep Guardiola player. His technique on the ball can be clumsy. His passing range is limited. Yet Blaise still managed to leave an impression on Pep.

Former Clairefontaine youth coach Francisco Filho shares the story:

We had just finished a tournament in Las Palmas. We won. Pep Guardiola was there, on holiday. Alongside his brother, who was organising the tournament, we dined together. He saw our match and he said to me: ‘When I will be manager (he was still playing in Qatar at the time), I want a player like your #6.’ Who was it? Blaise Matuidi.”

Shout out to Get French Football News for originally sharing the story.

Pro-Paul Pogba

Pogba might naturally be tall, powerful, and rangy, but you can find hundreds more across Europe’s top leagues with those attributes. What marked him apart, even as a kid was his work ethic. “I remember telling the group at training one Monday to juggle the ball 50 times with their right foot, 50 times with their left, and 50 times with their head,” recalled another of his coaches at Roissy, Mamadou Papis Magassa. “Paul couldn’t do it. But he spend the next two days with a football, practicing constantly. He came back Wednesday and did it perfectly.”

8by8 Magazine issue 8, All Eyes on Paul. By Paolo Bandini.

How did Nicki Bandini (then Paolo) scoop this tale of Paul Pogba? Can you picture young Paul in the back garden practicing his juggling?

Even the gifted need to put in the work.

André Villas-Boas’s curious Le Classique

André Villas-Boas back on the touch line for a major European game? This must be a special edition of Le Classique.

His red beard is spotting grey, but his pre-match demeanor was that of a man who’s taken plenty of time off to live a dream.

He was all handshakes and smiles, shining in his Marseille track suit like he just left the spa.

The shine faded quick.

His high-line the down fall. It wasn’t the ridiculous high-line of his Chelsea days, but without a calculated press, Di Maria and Veratti were able to pick out Mbappe and Icardi by request.

4-0 at halftime. The match was over. With the loss Marseille now sit 7th. It’s not a disaster. There’s plenty of season left. But the question is out. Is Andre Villas Boas a good coach?

I’m rooting for him. I always back the nerd, laptop coaches who’ve never played professional football but somehow scrap their way to the top of their professions – See Sarri, Nagelsmann,

8 years on, his Porto team is a cloudy memory. The stint in China boosted his bank account, but not his professional reputation.

If Villas-Boas doesn’t sort out Marseille soon, the Dakar Rally will be the only competitive sport on his calendar.

Eric made me do it

Episode #4

Journal,

Have you heard of marginalia? Sounds pretentious, but my made up definition is simple:

Writing notes in the margins of whichever book your reading.

It’s a note taking system practiced by some of history’s greatest minds. And a practice I resisted.

Ink up a book?

Soil the pages?

Question the author?

I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.

But then, back in 05’, I bought a book I couldn’t put down. A book that opened the tent flaps on European football. The book was:

 

Beckham_Bio
Beckham: Both Feet on the Ground: An Autobiography

 

In Beckham: Both Feet on the Ground, Becks shares a story of watching Eric Cantona train:

Eric_Cantona_1

 

Evernote wasn’t around. Pocket didn’t exist. But I needed to remember. Needed to be reminded that even Eric Cantona, Old Trafford myth, made time to sharpen his Katana.

I’m doing it.

I stole a highlighter from my mother’s desk drawer and lit up the page.

Ok. It wasn’t marginalia full blast, but it was a start. To this day, when I see Beckham spine out on my shelf, those highlighted pages come back to me.

I’ll always remember, Eric made me do it.

 

Cheers,

Jack

 

 

 

Bald Hero

Episode #3

Journal,

First French football hero? You guessed it. Fabien Barthez.

Goalkeeper was the first position I was attracted to. It’s natural when you grow up playing basketball and you can’t do five keepie-uppies.

Goalkeepers seemed so heroic, living knights of the round table. Diving hands first into danger to save the entire team. They even wore superhero costumes, kits unlike anyone else on the field. Draped in jerseys colored in Broccoli green, Sunflower yellow, even 80s pop star pink was an option.

Keepers though, were demi-gods. Peter Schmeichel, Ollie Kahn (did anyone call him Ollie to his face?), with their sculpted shoulders and grizzly bear paws were BC Olympians. Out of reach of us eighty-six-pound mortals.

Then there was Fabian Barthez.

He scraped in at six feet. And closer resembled a grocer, filling the bins with vine fresh tomatoes early Saturday morning, rather than a top-level goalkeeper.

But Barthez, with his Copa Mundials and number 16 shirt won the Champions League with Marseille. Lifted the World and European cup with France. He even won the league with Manchester United.

Zidane treasures him. When asked which player from the 98′ team he’d add to the current French side, he replied “Barthez”.

I don’t remember any spectacular saves Barthez made. I can’t recall a press conference where he charmed anyone. I’ve never saw him lift a trophy.

None of these things made Barthez my hero. He was my hero because I could see a little of myself in him.

I’m out,

Jack

I’m Not A Player I Just Crush A lot

Episode #1

Dear Journal,

I’m trying to remember when I started crushing on French football.
Was it World Cup 98? Zidane’s double headers in Paris?

No, that was my first exposure to the French team, but I was supporting the Seleção. The Nike commercials, the Canary Yellow kits. El Phenomenon.

Zidane who?

I had no clue. I couldn’t comprehend Zidane’s composure on the ball. I didn’t appreciate the roulettes or dragbacks. All I saw was a balding forty-four-year-old midfielder head two bullets past a cardboard cut-out of Taffarel.

 
Yeah, those blue Adidas kits were dope as hell but our relationship was still years away.
Oh, I remember now. London. It all began in North London.

 
Monaco takes on Amiens tonight. Another Ligue 1 team I’ll have to google. Friday night football is like chicken fried steak, weekend comfort food.

I’m out,

Jack

 

P.S. I learned later that summer Zidane was only 26 years old. His early male pattern baldness brought me great comfort later in life.

Ligue 1 is Europe’s most exciting competition

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Here’s Our 3 Wishes for 2017

Marseille’s renaissance continues

Bilesa’s return flamed out, but Marseille rebounded with Rudy Garcia. Garcia is no “El Loco” in style or manner, but he’s won Ligue 1 against all odds, with Lille. Garcia took over a side that was 12th in the table. Since then Marseille has lost only two, climbing to 6th. Gomis has ten goals in nine. And Saki, Rolando, Hubocan and Fanni have developed into a formidable back four.

Missing out on John Obi Mikel to China is a blow but, if Frank McCourt ponies up the Euros for a Dimitri Payet return some of the skepticism around his investment in the club may dim.

Could Marseille finish top four? Not this year. But a Europa league place would restore dignity to a wayward season and awaken hope in the Velodrome faithful.

Jean Michael Seri leads Nice to Glory

Dante’s gotten love. Balotelli the headlines. But it’s Seri, the Ivorian Ant-Man who’s Nice’s indispensable player. Leading Ligue 1 in assists the man’s range of passing and mobility are the keys that ignite Nice’s engine. If he stays healthy and Nice win it, he should be Ligue 1’s player of the season-and off to a bigger club. How Nice copes with Seri’s absence during the African Cup of Nations will determine if the Ligue 1 championship finds a home on the French coast.

Monaco stays offensive

Monaco. Home of world class Grand Prix, no income tax and attacking football. Attacking football? Yes. Attacking football. Sure, in the past Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco have been accused of parking buses and inducing yawns. However, this year’s edition has 49 goals scored. Top for all of Europe’s major leagues.

Falcao’s 11 goals have been a welcome resurgence and Guido Carrillo’s 7 has already surpassed his total from the previous season. Jardim’s new tactical approach has ensured Ligue 1 is well within reach. Manchester City await in the round of 16 and a semi-final place in the Coupe de la Ligue keeps the treble in play. Will Jardim alter Monaco’s approach to appease the trophy gods? Or will banging Gs’ remain?