Laurent Blanc: The Renaissance Man

Laurent Blanc has expressed his pride after being unveiled as the France coach yesterday. The former Bordeaux manager was named as Raymond Domenech's successor with the national team at last week's meeting of the French Football Federation's federal council. Blanc was a key part of the France team that won the 1998 World Cup, on home soil, and Euro 2000, and he insists even their dismal 2010 World Cup campaign under Domenech in South Africa this summer did not deter him from continuing his link with the national team.

"I am very proud to be here as coach of the France team," he said. "For me, the France team is above everything, it was a thread throughout my career. As a player I experienced difficult times but also some great moments. My commitment to the France team is absolute. I had other challenges available to me, but this one with the French team most attracted me. The recent difficult events never called that into question. The France team does not belong to anybody. It is for everyone, for you [the media] the same as for me. I understand what the France team represents, the rights and the requirements linked to this jersey."

Blanc has signed a two-year contract to guide Les Bleus through the qualification campaign for Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. The former national team midfielder Alain Boghossian will remain as assistant coach, the role he occupied under Domenech, and is joined by Jean-Louis Gasset. Blanc has pledged a clean slate for the players who orchestrated a training walkout ahead of this summer's final group game against the host nation. The Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka had been dismissed from the squad after a dressing-room bust-up with Domenech at half-time in the defeat to Mexico and the captain, Patrice Evra, was angered that details of Anelka's verbal attack were leaked to the press. Evra confronted the fitness coach, Robert Duverne, on 20 June, three days after the game, and the players then refused to take to the training field.

"The thing which shocked me the most was the group's behaviour in training 48 hours ahead of the third match against South Africa. Those responsible for this badly thought out decision are numerous. It is not for me to decide on sanctions. I am not the bogeyman. I will be judged on results, and in order to achieve the best results I must have the best team. If I consider they are the best players in their position, I will take them. I will speak with them about what happened but in the FFF's rules, there are no disciplinary sanctions set out. I will make my decisions based on sporting considerations." Blanc admitted.

The winger Florent Malouda, meanwhile, said France's World Cup fiasco had been the fault of the system, a poor environment and the coach's refusal to listen to players. "With France I came to play where I was asked to and that was it, We didn't even try to see the coach to talk about the tactical system, 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. It was just, 'Put yourself there and no arguments.' We did not look for explanations. Never in the last few years did my words have any influence on the coach." Malouda said

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