Paris 2024: the sacred union around the French men’s football team did not last long

Philippe Diallo's good will was nothing more than wishful thinking

Paris 2024: the sacred union around the French men’s football team did not last long

Philippe Diallo's good will was nothing more than wishful thinking. “We want to build the best possible French team” for the Paris Olympic Games, confided the president of the French Football Federation (FFF) on December 15, 2023 to Le Monde. That day, the FFF took the problem head on: a meeting was organized with representatives of French professional clubs, because the latter can accept or refuse to release their players for the Olympic tournament, which takes place on dates – July 24 to August 9 – not planned by the International Football Federation.

At the end of said meeting, the first feedback was positive. The start of a great story that ends with a gold medal? Far from there. In a speech on Wednesday March 27, Florian Maurice, the sports director of Stade Rennais, blurred the narrative of the great national cause put together by the FFF: “We cannot undress to dress the French team. (…) It’s difficult for us, we have to understand that. »

Let's try to understand the one who played the football tournament at the Atlanta Games in 1996: his club, like others in Ligue 1, could compete in the play-offs for a European Cup, when the Games end. Faced with the millions of euros that a qualification can represent, Olympic values ​​carry very little weight. The fear is that other leaders will slip into this breach, since French clubs have the right of life or death over the ambitions of the group led by Thierry Henry.

“It is important that there is a positive state of mind and unity around this project,” welcomed Mr. Diallo on December 15, 2023. But, around the French men’s football team, the The sacred union did not last long. Fault lines are appearing, so that Pierre Sage, the coach of Olympique Lyonnais, indirectly responded to Mr. Maurice on Thursday: “We are rather in favor of them [the Lyon players] going there. » His counterparts stationed in Lille and Lens, Paulo Fonseca and Franck Haise, adopted a similar position.

The fear of reliving the Tokyo fiasco

The federation does not expect to rely on foreign clubs, which it has nevertheless surveyed. She received the answer she dreaded: Real Madrid will not release its French players. Farewell, the Olympic dream of Kylian Mbappé, who should join the club in the Spanish capital next season.

However, there is no shortage of declared candidates to occupy the three places reserved for those over 23 in Thierry Henry's list: Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, Karim Benzema..., but the main thing is now elsewhere. Before thinking of “stars”, the FFF and its coach must guarantee the presence of a hard core. And to do this, convince French clubs to act in the national interest.

The risk in case of failure? Relive the Tokyo Games fiasco. Sylvain Ripoll, the ex-coach of the Bleuets, had suffered numerous refusals, cobbled together a team at the last minute, before seeing it eliminated in the first round. Thierry Henry has this scenario in mind: “When I arrived, I spoke to the coach from before and I knew how difficult it was going to be. I suspected that,” he admits.

A 2021 remake would look bad, especially since the Bleuets will be among the first representatives of the French Olympic delegation to take action on July 24. Two days before the opening ceremony and in front of the public at the Stade-Vélodrome, the eighteen players finally selected will face the United States. During a match that looked like a dress rehearsal, Monday March 25, the French fared poorly against the Americans (2-2). The gold medal is still far away.