Paris: France’s World Cup and Euro-winning captain Didier Deschamps is seen as the favourite to become the fifth national team coach in the past ten years after Laurent Blanc decided not to accept a new contract.
But if confirmed, 43-year-old Deschamps, once witheringly described as a “water carrier” by Eric Cantona, would be taking on what increasingly looks like a poisoned chalice after a torrid recent history for the 1998 world champions.
Euro 2000-winner Roger Lemerre stepped down after France failed to exit the group stage at the 2002 World Cup; Jacques Santini left after Euro 2004 for an ill-fated sojourn at Spurs; and Raymond Domenech went in 2010 after a rollercoaster six years.
Should Deschamps take over, he would at least be able to continue the hard work that Blanc had put in since replacing the largely unloved Domenech after the 2010 World Cup debacle, which compounded a disastrous Euro 2008 campaign.
On paper, Deschamps is seen as having the right credentials for the job, with a stellar playing career followed by a laudable one as a coach, not least after he guided Monaco to a surprise appearance in the 2004 Champions League final.
He also coached his former club Juventus back to Serie A after their demotion in 2006 for match-fixing.
He then left for Marseille, the club he captained and with whom he won the 1993 European Cup trophy as well as guided to a first Ligue 1 title in 18 years in 2010.
France’s Sunday newspapers, though, largely viewed Deschamps as the “least worst” option.
Others, such as present Oman coach Paul Le Guen, was reportedly sounded out by French Football Federation President Noel Le Graet even before the Euro but he does not inspire much enthusiasm within France.
Le Journal du Dimanche said Le Graet, who is up for re-election in December, was prepared to offer the new coach a two-year contract, with another two if France qualify for the 2014 World Cup from a group containing defending champions Spain.
The weekly said Le Graet has few options, as his fantasy choice of Arsene Wenger was rebuffed because the wily Arsenal coach wants to stay at the north London club, while Le Guen has also declined.
“The favourite by default is Didier Deschamps, who is going to leave Marseille,” the newspaper said.
“He was sounded out a few days ago by an intermediary, his assistant Guy Stephan, who knows Le Graet well [the former has a house in the Breton town of Guingamp, where Le Graet served two terms as mayor]. This option is an intriguing one.”
But the publication added: “It is a marriage that goes against logic. Le Graet has never appreciated what he saw as negative lobbying by the 1998 World Cup generation during the Domenech era.
“And he most certainly does not want to hear the name of Jean-Pierre Bernes [agent of Blanc and Deschamps as well as several key players], of whom he has never had anything but a sulphurous view.
“In this case the former captain of the world and European champions is much closer to his agent than Blanc is.”
The main question may well be financial, after Deschamps informed Marseille in May that he did not want to see out the remaining two years of his contract.
But now he seems to be the favourite, reports suggested that cash-strapped Marseille could try to benefit and seek remuneration from the FFF, just as Bordeaux did successfully when Blanc left two years ago.
Sports daily L’Equipe claimed that as national team coach, Deschamps would see his monthly salary reduced from 300,000 euros to 100,000 euros (Dh1.4 million to Dh465,000), although money was not an issue.
“Money has never been the motivating factor with the national side with whom he has experienced the most heartstopping moments of his career,” it added.