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League of Nations: the Blues revive the beautiful color of victory



When two great teams live up to their talent, football can provide a dazzling spectacle. France and Spain played at a very high level in the final of the League of Nations, this Sunday, October 10 in Milan. And a meeting without major stake in a competition with blunt relief made a duel with daggers drawn, ended with a stunning scenario and a magnificent victory of the Blues (2-1).

→ ANALYSIS. Football: French and Belgians in place for the 2018 revenge

After a first half full of tension and tactical movements leaving little room for the expression of the artists, each engaged in efficient but grueling pressing, everything was packed after the hour of play. crazy, in just two minutes, started with a lightning attack from the Blues ended with a strike from Theo Hernandez which crashed into the Spanish crossbar. The best opportunity for the Blues, but the opposite goes very quickly to give an additional hand to the Spaniards. Who, in the same minute, open the scoring.

Jet Blues

The Blues can be knocked out, but no. It is quite the opposite which occurs, and immediately the men of Didier Deschamps retort with their rebel in chief: Karim Benzema. With a curled shot, the attacker finds the Spanish skylight, and as in the semi-final against Belgium (3-2), sounds the tricolor revolt. The rest is a feast of Kylian Mbappé passing his legs, the Spaniards who do not abdicate, two decisive stops by Hugo Lloris, and the Blues who take the trophy for the second edition of the event.

They thus end a very chaotic year. After the astonishing return of the ban Karim Benzema in the spring, an extremely disappointing Euro with the Blues often well below their potential and their claimed ambition, the start of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign revealing at the return of the Blues as emptied of all substance, Didier Deschamps’ men attacked this week dedicated to the last four of the League of Nations in an atmosphere where absolute confidence was not hovering.

Apparently lost players, a coach weighing much less than in the past, perhaps seeming at the end of the line: after 45 catastrophic minutes of the first duel of this Nations League against Belgium, with a scathing 0-2 in the table of ‘display, all the commentators were already sharpening their pens to tell the doldrums in which the France team was bathed. And the shadow of Zinédine Zidane already hovering above the Blues, because it needed at least that, a providential man, to raise the bar tomorrow.

An attack finally effective

Except that words were exchanged in the locker room between these Blues who were only a shadow of themselves. Didier Deschamps, Paul Pogba, Hugo Lloris, in turn, spoke hard, but fair. They whipped up common pride, and the same suddenly found themselves so different to offer a staggering turnaround.

The final against Spain did not obey the same scenario, but it was once again the Blues in reaction who provided the show. As if this team had to be stung before asserting its character. Victory undoubtedly does not solve everything and does not offer total guarantees for the continuation of the 2022 adventure. The offensive capacities of the famous Mbappé-Benzema-Griezmann trio are finally expressed, even if Antoine Griezmann still appears a tone below these two teammates.

For the first time since the epic on the roof of the world in Russia in 2018, something really emerges from this French team. Something that looks like a newfound confidence, a truly shared involvement. The angry fist, then the big smile of Didier Deschamps at the end of the meeting speak well of the relief of the man. He too must be fully revitalized, before attacking what should be his last year in office until the World Cup in Qatar. Strongly the continuation.

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Football: stunning, the Blues eliminate Belgium from the League of Nations


Resilient and stunning, the French football team signed a breathtaking last half hour to overcome a revengeful Belgium (3-2) and validate its qualification for the final of the League of Nations, thanks to the heroism of its youngster international Théo Hernandez.

Dominant for 60 minutes, Belgium has long believed to be able to soften the bitter memory of the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But the world number 1 selection sank against the world champions, once again, in a much more miraculous scenario than in St. Petersburg three years ago (1-0 for the Blues) … A revenge that risks to further establish the rivalry between these two neighboring nations.

Patience, revolt and madness

“Winning this match compared to the scenario, it proves once again the strength of character of this team”, reacted the French coach Didier Deschamps on TF1.

The Blues have built their success with patience, revolt and madness. Karim Benzema reduced the score (62e), Kylian Mbappé smiled again from the penalty spot (69e), and Théo Hernandez, for his second selection, illuminated Juventus stadium with a clear shot at the far post (90e), piercing a destitute Thibaut Courtois.

→ ANALYSIS. Football: French and Belgians in place for the 2018 revenge

Spain-France will therefore be the prestigious poster for the final of the second edition of the League of Nations, Sunday (8:45 p.m.) in Milan, with a second trophy within reach of Deschamps since taking office in 2012. He will not be able to not replace, nor erase, the missed Euro of the Blues, but it could allow to approach the path to the World Cup 2022 with hope.

Total intensity

Belgium and its golden generation of Hazard, Lukaku and De Bruyne, is experiencing a new disillusionment in its quest for an international title: the team led by Roberto Martinez postpones its dreams for a year, to Qatar.

The 20,000 tickets on sale had not all found a taker on Thursday evening, but the 12,400 fans who came to Juventus stadium will not forget this crazy meeting: the few hundred French supporters stayed for nearly half an hour to sing after the final whistle.

→ EXPLANATION. Football: Fifa consults to better impose its biennial World Cup

From the start of the match, a few boos rustled during hymns on both sides, and the total intensity of the first moments, marked by a high-class save signed by Hugo Lloris in front of Kevin De Bruyne (4e), showed that the two selections were not there to make up the figure.

Mbappé extinguished De Bruyne

The Mancunien was going to be the man of this first period: constantly found between the lines, ingenious in his passes, “KDB” has long eclipsed the 50e selection of Kylian Mbappé, a record in Blue at only 22 years old, with his two assists, for Yannick Carrasco (37e) and the impressive Romelu Lukaku (41e). The Chelsea striker even believed, at the very end of the match, to offer the victory to his people but he was signaled out of play (87e).

It was not until the hour of play, when the Belgians finally retreated, that Kylian Mbappé found the loophole. A decisive pass for Karim Benzema, scorer against his teammate Thibaut Courtois, then a penalty obtained by Antoine Griezmann and transformed with authority by the PSG striker, who had only scored once in Blue in the last eleven games.

Mbappé had offered the first goal to Benzema, Benzema offered the second to Mbappé by giving the ball of the penalty to his young partner.

This shock of neighbors was also a match between brothers: the brothers Lucas and Théo Hernandez, holders, wore the blue jersey together for the first time, unheard of since the Revellis, in 1974. The siblings will remember this first for a long time. association, and Theo now has an appointment at San Siro Sunday, the stadium of his daily life.

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Champions League: the luxury puzzle of Paris Saint-Germain



“Messi, Neymar and Mbappé, together? I join this collective excitement, I’m like everyone else, I would be crazy not to want to see them play together. Will we see them together tomorrow? Maybe yes “,maliciously launched at a press conference, Tuesday, September 14, the coach of Paris SG to Mauricio Pochettino, on the eve of his team’s entry into contention, Wednesday 15 at 9 p.m., in the Champions League in Bruges.

False suspense: in reality, barring injury or last minute unforeseen events, the magical trio will be on the pitch, if only because football is also about money and image and because the whole world like the Qatari shareholder are waiting for that. Just like the fans of this planetary game, curious to finally see for the first time the trio never gathered on the field. For his first appearance in Ligue 1, Lionel Messi entered during the match to replace Neymar.

There remains a small problem of rich well known to high-level technicians that the Argentinian did not hide: “We are a club that bought a lot of players this summer and signed some very important names, but you have to convert it all into a team, like Chelsea did (European champion, Editor’s note) last year. “A man undoubtedly listened to these words with attention: Didier Deschamps. Confronted during the Euro with this same equation with three famous unknowns, Mbappé, Griezmann, Benzema, he has not succeeded in solving it so far.

The example of Barcelona

To best bring to life what the football world already calls the MNM (Messi Neymar Mpappé), Mauricio Pochettino can rely on a famous precedent, already featuring the M of Messi and the N of Neymar. For nearly three years, the famous MSN (Messi, Suarez, Neymar) made the heyday of Barcelona, ​​scoring 364 goals and distributing 211 decisive. Never seen. The recipe concocted by Luis Enrique, Barca coach, was known to all: Neymar played on the left, Messi on the right, with full latitude for these two players to navigate wherever they saw fit, before serving the third thief Luis Suarez, who was waiting their gifts in the center.

Will this pattern be reproduced against Bruges, Mbappé taking on the role of Luis Suarez this time? This is the whole question asked, the answer to which we will not know until the kick-off, when the three stars will be arranged around the central circle while waiting for the whistle. It doubles as another puzzle because this option will affect the entire workforce. A trio of this stature need to be backed up by a strong midfielder and supplied with balloons by quick and attacking full-backs, who in Paris are less impactful than Barca’s of MSN.

Mbappé does not play like Suarez

The MNM has another major difference with its predecessor. The M is not the S and Mbappé does not have the same game as Suarez at all. He is never better than coming from afar, launched at full speed, most often on the left side of… Neymar. It is hard to see Bondy’s child transforming into a surface fox, waiting for the balloons in the manner of Suarez or Giroud. Will Pochettino be able to convince the Frenchman to bow to a new discipline and to stay ahead wisely? Or on the contrary will he concede the left side (his favorite) by transforming Neymar into a playmaker? This is perhaps the best tactical option, but not necessarily managerial: the soap opera of Mbappé’s false start at Real Madrid and his average end of the season in the French team have undoubtedly tarnished his image within the club.

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Clermont Foot, a blow to the Ligue 1



Here we are ! “, on May 15, 2021, the new management team of Clermont Foot, around Ahmet Schaefer, the young Swiss president (1) and his advisers Yannick Flavien and Jérôme Champagne, rejoiced. That evening, despite the defeat in Caen, the Clermontois, second in the Ligue 2 championship, validated their ticket for the elite. For the first time in its long history, this club, founded in 1984 – turned professional in 2002 – will tread the lawns of the largest enclosures in France.

→ DEBATE Lionel Messi in Paris: is the financial imbalance between PSG and other clubs undermining the “beauty of sport”?

Few people bet on the rise of the eleventh budget of the second division, despite the undeniable consistency of Pascal Gastien’s players since taking office in 2017. Elected in 2020, by his peers, best coach of the championship, the architect of this spectacular team will not deviate this year from his playing principles: above all the qualities of movement, the occupation of spaces and the sense of the collective ”, he enumerates.

Without great means (2), the Auvergne club overcomes obstacles with ingenuity, drawing inspiration from the example of the SCO d’Angers which, in the space of a few seasons, has established itself among the sure values ​​of L1. In 2014, Claude Michy, Ahmet Schaefer’s predecessor, broke all the codes, by entrusting for the first time in the history of French football the reins of the first team to a woman, Corinne Deacon, now coach of the Blue. In this land of the oval, the leaders of Clermont Foot had the intelligence to get closer to their counterparts from the Rubgy club, a Top 14 giant, to share a state-of-the-art training center and pool their know-how and expertise.

Little remodeled, the team started its season in the best way

Usually, the promoted ones reinforce themselves in a consequent way before the start of the season. This is not the case for Clermont, who is approaching the championship with a stable framework. Supported by strong goalkeeper Arthur Desmas, Benin defender Cédric Houtoudji, experienced midfielders Jonathan Iglesias (32) and Johann Gastien (33) and flamboyant strikers Mohamed Bayo and Jim Allevinah can express their formidable efficiency.

Our best recruitment has been to keep our best players ”, justifies the club president. Pascal Gastien draws the strength of his group from this stability. Collectively, we are surely ahead of some teams ”, observes the 57-year-old coach. But no question for this disciple of Guy Latapie, the technician who learned everything ” at the start of his playing career in Angoulême and Patrick Parizon, to ignite: Despite our victory in Bordeaux (0-2), on the first day, we remain the Petit Poucet of L1. We must remain lucid, defeats, there will be, undoubtedly more than victories ”, he warns.

This is why he would still like to expand his group by the reinforcement of at least four players, preferably regulars of the elite. The two new recruits – Kosovar striker Milot Rashica and defender Arial Mendy – have already melted in the mold, hinting at great promises against Bordeaux. The young people will have a card to play this season, while other hopes (Saracevic, Türkmen) left to harden in the satellite club of Clermont Foot, FC Lustenau, current leader of the Austrian L2.

The development of the club passes, in the eyes of Ahmet Schaefer, through training and scouting : We cannot deviate from this horizon. For that, we are obliged to seek young people – in the lower divisions or abroad – where the others do not go ”, continues the businessman, who has close links with renowned academies in Africa, such as the one headed by Jean-Marc Guillou in Mali.

A city ready to vibrate

At the start of this great adventure, Clermont players will be able to count on the support of the public at the Gabriel-Montpied stadium. In the city of Michelin, deprived until now of high-level football, football fans were impatient to see their team one day enter the big leagues.

With more than 8,700 cards sold at the start of the season, the subscription campaign has exceeded the club’s expectations. “This demonstrates the full potential ofClermont-Ferrand, a city which obviously lives for rugby, but which is also a football territory ”, according to Ahmet Schaefer.

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The teams to follow

Behind PSG, the favorite of the French championship, Monaco will want to confirm the beautiful dynamic seen since the beginning of 2020. Very little diminished (departure of Maignan and Soumaré), Lille, the outgoing champion, will have his say, while Marseille , which animated the summer transfer window (arrivals of Guendouzi, De la Fuente, Cergiz or Gedson), Lyon, led by its new Dutch coach Peter Bosz and Rennes will be in the race for the podium.

The results of OGC Nice, under the impetus of its powerful shareholder Ineos, who succeeded in securing the services of Christophe Galtier, the former coach of Lille, will also inevitably be scrutinized. His attacking trio – the Dutch Kluivert and Stengs around Danish center-forward Dolberg – could be one of the sensations of the season. Recovering, Bordeaux and Nantes will seek to make up for their failed exercise in 2020-2021.

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In Japan, the birth of the first professional women’s football league



On June 17, hundreds of people gathered in Kumagaya Stadium, 70 km from Tokyo. The local women’s football team faces that of the Nagano region, a few weeks before the launch of the first professional women’s football league (We League) in September. “My 10 year old daughter wants to join the Kumagaya team. We will surely come back here for the opening game of the league, his creation is great news ”, tells an enthusiastic mother who came to the stadium with her family.

Like a Japanese society still largely unequal, Japanese footballers still suffer from the comparison with their male counterparts. And this, while they won the World Cup in 2011 and the silver medal at the 2012 Olympics. The current women’s football league has for example only ten professional players, or about 5% of the workforce. .

Objective: 5,000 spectators per match

In order to change the situation, the Japanese Federation announced, in June 2020, the creation of this WE League. “The idea is to change not only football, but also the whole of society”, says Miyuki Kobayashi, executive member of WE League. In this league, at least fifteen players in each of the eleven teams will benefit from a professional contract, with an annual salary of at least € 20,000.

Kozue Ando, ​​a 39-year-old midfielder who has played 126 games for the Japan team, hails the improvements made in recent years. “20 years ago, we used a college ground to train and we changed in the shade of a tree”, she says. Having experienced it, she knows that progress can be very rapid. “When we left for the World Cup in 2011, there were three journalists at the airport. When we returned, there were more than 500. Now that the league is established, to strengthen the popularity of our sport, it is imperative that Japan return to the top three nations in the world. “

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Football: outcome in sight for Ligue 1 TV rights



A crucial decision for French football. The Competition Authority dismissed on Friday, June 11 an appeal from Canal + concerning the terms of reassignment of Ligue 1 TV rights. Consequently, the legal horizon emerges with a view to an expected agreement between the encrypted channel and the League professional football (LFP).

After the defective broadcaster Mediapro was withdrawn during the season, the Vivendi group channel lodged an appeal for ” abuse of dominant position “ against the decision of the LFP to only put into play the lots abandoned by the Sino-Spanish group, without including lot 3 held by Canal +.

The encrypted channel, which paid 330 million euros for the two matches of each day planned in this lot, estimated its value now overvalued and called for a global tender. The LFP finally won its case, both before the commercial court in March, even if Canal + announced that it wanted to appeal, and before the Competition Authority on Friday 11 June.

“At the end of its examination, the Authority rejected the referral to the merits of Canal + and the associated request for precautionary measures, considering that they were not accompanied by sufficiently convincing elements”, she wrote in a statement.

According to this decision, the LFP was within its rights by launching its partial call for tenders in early February, covering 80% of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 and ultimately unsuccessful, then opting since then for direct negotiations with broadcasters. interested.

Clubs without a diffuser

The rejection of the appeal of Canal + therefore clears the legal horizon of French football by making possible an agreement by mutual agreement.

According to sources close to the negotiations, this decision could accelerate an agreement with Canal + and beIN Sports, hoped for in the coming hours in the face of the emergency in which Ligue 1 finds itself: the clubs are currently without a broadcaster unless two months of the resumption of the 2021-2022 season in early August and must present a consistent budget on June 14 to the DNCG.

→ ANALYSIS TV rights: does French football deserve such a discount?

Domestic TV rights, initially expected at 1.217 billion euros per year for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, fell, for the 2020-2021 season, to around 683 million euros after the default of Mediapro and the closure of its ephemeral Téléfoot channel.

Maxime Saada, boss of Canal +, expects negotiations around an overall annual figure “Close to previous cycles”, namely an average of 650 million euros per year.

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Football: a Ligue 1 with 18 clubs, in an emergency and without much debate



The season of fear is coming soon. For the 2022-2023 season to be exact, at the end of which four Ligue 1 clubs will tumble into Ligue 2 (against two or three today). The Professional Football League (LFP) decided on the dark cup Thursday, June 3, with club presidents voting almost unanimously to reduce the elite from 20 to 18 clubs. Thrown into the crisis by the imbroglio on television rights with the withdrawal of the main broadcaster Mediapro and the loss of more than 500 million euros this year, and at the same time victims of health constraints, the leaders of French football are counting on a double bonus.

Europe in the crosshairs

“As resources are less, they first reduce the number of shares to share the cake, while hoping to produce a competitive shock: fewer clubs, therefore more talent in those that remain, and a more attractive championship which should generate more broadcasting rights, explains Jean-Pascal Gayant, professor of economics at the University of Le Mans. On a more sporting level, Ligue 1 with fewer matches will also make it possible to be more in line with the busier European calendar because of the reform of the Champions League to 36 teams in 2024. And French clubs will also be more performers in the Europa League, a competition that they too often abandon compared to their foreign counterparts. “

Between the 1997-1998 and 2001-2002 season, the French championship had already been reduced to 18, crowning five different champions during these five years (Lens, Bordeaux, Monaco, Nantes and Lyon). At the same time, Marseille had reached the final of the Europa League (defeat against Parma in 1999), Lens the last four of this competition (in 2000) and Monaco the semi-final of the Champions League (in 1998). The good example? “At the time, the return to twenty clubs was far from unanimous, and since then, many leaders, especially in the big clubs, campaigned for a tightening, underlines Jérémie Bastien, sports economist at the University of Reims-Champagne Ardenne. They therefore took advantage of the crisis this time to take the decision. “

However, some voices are raised to contest this choice. In the elite, only the president of Metz voted against. In Ligue 2, skepticism is more widespread. Like the general manager of Grenoble, Max Marty, speaking in the Dauphiné : “20 clubs, this offers proximity, it allows football to stay in its rurality, its territories, especially in terms of training. We must pay attention to the globalization of French football. “ It is true that at a time when twelve of the richest clubs on the planet have suffered an outcry in their project for a European closed Super League, the French decision to tighten the elite may seem to be wrong.

Tomorrow, an elite with 16 clubs?

The supporters, extremely mobilized against the Super League, and undoubtedly decisive for its abandonment, will they accept without barguigner a Ligue 1 to 18? “Against the Super League, the supporters’ associations had been mobilized for a long time and were able very quickly to find relays to assert their rejection. Conversely, the League at 18 is not a subject on which they are positioned, indicates the sociologist Nicolas Hourcade, specialist in supporterism. But the fact that they were not consulted either shows that this choice was made in an emergency, without any real debate on the future of French football. “

A regret shared by Jean-Pascal Gayant, especially since the case is not closed. “Some are already talking about an evolution towards 16 clubs, assures the economist. And the reduction of Ligue 2 also to 18 clubs is not clear. Faced with such changes, we must ask questions about a possible professionalization of a third division, also think about limiting the number of clubs, the duration of contracts, salaries too, and therefore think about retraining, etc. The clubs are still struggling to develop a long-term vision, yet essential. “

A difficult reflection to hold in an uncertain context and still suspended from negotiations on television rights for next season (read opposite). “Everything will also depend on their level and their progress, judge Jérémie Bastien. If they continue to rise, even modestly, the possibility of an elite with 16 clubs, already socially and culturally difficult to pass, should be ruled out. “ The French football revolution has only just begun.

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Persistent blur on television rights

Until 2023-2024, it is for next season that the vagueness is still in order on the question of television rights. In the absence of an agreement, the clubs still cannot establish provisional budgets. Canal + appears as the essential broadcaster. The encrypted channel favors the scenario of sharing with BeIN Sports, Canal + reserving two posters per weekend, BeIN launching a channel with the other matches.

But in this hypothesis, and by adding the mobile rights granted to Free, the LFP should be satisfied with just over 500 million euros in revenue, against 1.2 billion expected with the previous Mediapro contract finally canceled and at the origin of the current crisis. The LFP refuses for the moment to deal with less than 600 million euros fixed per season, more possible bonuses. The standoff continues.

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Champions League: Chelsea and Tuchel sacred, hard learning for Manchester City



The “Blues” in jubilation. Chelsea won their second Champions League, beating favorite Manchester City (1-0) in the final thanks to Kai Havertz (42e), Saturday in Porto, a symbolic title for his trainer Thomas Tuchel, licensed from Paris SG at Christmas.

The German technician and the London club have lived together the upheavals of a unique season, turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic. Seventh in the Premier League when Swabia arrived in mid-January, Chelsea players had a season of ups and downs, which made them the underdogs against the recent champion of England.

But in a singular year, a surprise winner: the “Sky Blues”, put into orbit by the colossal investments of their rich Emirati owner, will have to wait before registering their name on the charts.

→ ANALYSIS. Football: Lille champion of France, a title on quicksand

Like Tottenham in 2019 and PSG in 2020, they lost their first C1 final, proof that the flagship competition does not allow itself to be seduced by newcomers, as attractive as they are.

“For a first final, we played a very good match, we showed courage. We will learn “, analyzed their coach Pep Guardiola, crowned twice on the Barça bench.

While he tried a tactical blow by starting Raheem Sterling in place of Fernandinho, Guardiola could not find the key against Tuchel, who beats him for the third time in a month and a half (after the Cup and the Championship ).

The German, like Chelsea, experienced a painful apprenticeship in the finals, with the one lost last August in Lisbon against Bayern (1-0) with PSG, who sacked him four months later, against a backdrop of disagreement on the proposed game.

N’Golo Kanté, the man of the match

In London, his players went to the end of his idea, with solidarity in defense and a constant commitment. “It’s a strong group, an ambitious club that suits me perfectly”, remarked Tuchel, who greeted the “Collective performance”.

One man nevertheless stood out: N’Golo Kanté. The French international made a match in his image, being tireless when it came to pressing, and impactful when he had the ball. His teammate with the Blues, Olivier Giroud, remained on the bench all match.

The presence of 14,110 spectators at the Dragon stadium gave life to this final, also English in the commitment made by the two teams. So noisy “Thiago Silva” accompanied the outing (39e) of the Brazilian defender, hit in the thigh, who had difficulty in hiding his depression.

But, in this theater that came back to life thanks to the fans, the sequences were linked, and with tears succeeded the joy, when Havertz opened the scoring three minutes later.

After a last strike from Mahrez (90e+7), Chelsea fans let their joy explode. At the same time, the announcer urging them to keep their masks and to remain seated in their seats. The last image of a season like no other.

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Champions League: Thomas Tuchel, on the roof of Europe



He paces the edge of the field, rolls big furious eyes, harangues the supporters in the stands, his arms in the sky and his face stormy. Yes, it’s “Crazy Thomas”, that nickname that is sometimes stuck to him when the passion that inhabits him overflows and sets his actions on fire. And he can ignite, Thomas Tuchel, this Saturday, May 29, in the dying minutes of the Champions League final that his team is winning: Chelsea holds up the shock, bends but does not break in the face of the assaults led with the energy of desperation by his evening opponent, Manchester City.

→ THE NEWS. Chelsea and Tuchel sacred, hard learning for Manchester City

One to zero at the final whistle, the feat is there. The Blues of Thomas Tuchel offer themselves, against the Citizens of the master to play Pep Guardiola, yet favorites of this confrontation, a second continental title after that of 2012. So certainly, this is the third time that the men of Thomas Tuchel s ‘impose this year ahead of their rivals. But the previous two did not have the same intensity, especially the second acquired in the league against a B team from Manchester City. There, what Chelsea has just smashed is the whole project of a wealthy club that has been seeking for more than ten years a European coronation, it is the whole dream of a star coach who intends to demonstrate his genius by reigning again on Europe, as he did when he was in charge of Barcelona.

A collective force transcended

It is especially for Thomas Tuchel a funny story. He who, at Christmas 2020, received a singular gift from his previous employer PSG, a dismissal letter, even though he had just led the club to its richest season: three national titles and a league final of champions. For questions, essentially, of incompatibility of mood between Thomas Tuchel and the sporting director Leonardo, the separation had become inescapable and in fact desired by all.

The German did not remain unemployed for long. He only had to cross the Channel to take control of Chelsea at the end of January in place of the former England international, Frank Lampard, powerless to clear the sky for the Blues. After 19 days of the championship, Chelsea point in fact to a very ugly ninth place, a crestfallen group and gloomy mood. Thomas Tuchel knows he comes urgently to play firefighters, more than to enroll in a long-term game project. His contract is only 18 months.

The club of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has a four-star workforce (around sixty players, half of whom are on loan), even in the absence of mega stars. Thomas Tuchel quickly takes the measure and has the intelligence not to question everything. It just offers a tactical repositioning favoring the defensive solidity of its formation, consolidates its tandem of young German attackers – Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, sparkling on Saturday night – infuses a welcome new energy.

A vibrant European campaign

“What I find impressive at Chelsea is that everyone is on the front lines, the players are aware of the demands and they are up to the job”, points Thomas Tuchel at the end of April. A criticism, in hollow, of what he could live in the Parisian locker room. Likewise, the German appreciates the absence of clans in his group and the solidarity that transpires on the ground. Chelsea are united, and most players, like the Frenchman N’Golo Kante, claim this collective dimension. Verdict of the German strategist: “I have never felt so good since I was in Mainz”, the club which launched its career between 2009 and 2014, before its arrival in the big leagues in Dortmund (2015-2017) then Paris (2018-2020).

The alchemy was in any case translated on the lawn, in the Premier League where Chelsea finished the season in fourth place, and during this European campaign more than brilliant. Which is judged by the yardstick of the winner of 2012: it was then led by interim Roberto Di Matteo, also appointed at the last minute to replace André Villas-Boas, sacked, and of whom he was the assistant coach. But this title owed a lot to an extremely lucky semi-final against Barcelona and a final also played on a dice (on penalties against Bayern Munich).

Chelsea’s victory this year after the radical elimination of Atletico Madrid, a muzzled Porto, a stifled Real Madrid, and a Manchester City overtaken for a whole half on Saturday, is much more dazzling. ” I want more “, hurried to comment Thomas Tuchel after this success. Insatiable.

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The Kanté festival

He lifted the big-eared cup with a smile from ear to ear. N’Golo Kanté was elected “man of the match” in this Champions League final. The Chelsea midfielder didn’t just collect a phenomenal number of balls, as usual. He participated in the very rapid construction of the climbs in the assault on Chelsea, in a new register called since his arrival by Thomas Tuchel. A physique still out of the ordinary, technical qualities that are revealed, the 30-year-old Bleu seems to be back at the top with an enlarged palette. Good news for Didier Deschamps a fortnight before the start of the Euro.

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Europa League: Villarreal, the triumph of peripheral football



And at the end of the night, after an interminable shooting session, the valiant people of the “yellow submarine” send the hopes of the “red devils” to the bottom. Yes, it was Villarreal who won the Europa League on Wednesday, May 26, beating Manchester United against all odds (1-1, 11-10). The Spaniards, novices at this level, have defeated the English winners of three Champions Leagues (1968, 1999 and 2008) and already rewarded in this competition (in 2017).

In other words: the club from a large town of 50,000 souls 60 km north of Valence has won against that of one of the largest metropolises of football, Manchester United featuring the best in terms of training for global audiences, trademark of global football. The fable of the renewed earthenware pot, which we would see very significant in this period when the leather mastodons came close to building their extremely rich closed residence, the Super League.

The flagship role of a local entrepreneur

Because Villarreal is indeed a singular attraction in the current football landscape. The club, founded in 1923, remained at the regional level for a long time, before slowly emerging at the turn of the century. Main responsible: Fernando Roig, local entrepreneur, fortune in ceramics, the region of Valencia being one of the largest centers of European production. It was he who bought nearly 60% of the club’s shares in 1997 for around € 400,000, he who launched the renovation of the stadium, the construction of a modern training center.

The ambition is real, and validated by a rise in the elite in 1998, for a season barely before coming back down, but a more stable return in 2000. Villarreal will first build its reputation thanks to the checkbook of its president , with, from 2004, striking and staggering recruitments, such as that of the Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini (future coach of Manchester City) or the Uruguayan “serial scorer” striker Diego Forlan. Villarreal is on the podium in La Liga, then his nose in Europe (a semi-final in the Champions League lost against Arsenal in 2006).

Sound management and training

But this period ended in 2012 with a return to earth and a relegation to the second division. The stay was brief – barely a year – but above all it caused a reorientation of house policy. The club gives up the classic practice of indebtedness dug by recruitments to focus especially on training. It has been his trademark for ten years. The management wants to be balanced, and the accounts appear rather healthy. This year, Villarreal is the seventh budget in La Liga (117 million euros), after climbing to 144 million euros before the health crisis. By comparison, we are talking about a budget between that of Rennes and that of Marseille in France.

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With these means and without making any noise, Villarreal has always ranked between the 4e and the 7e place (this year), with the exception of a small gap in 2019 (14e). But this season, the Spanish team wanted to turn a corner, especially on the European scene. Coach Unai Emery, former playing master of PSG and Arsenal already three times titled in the Europa League with Sevilla (2014, 2015 and 2016), was recruited to give additional impetus and also more rigor on the pitch. The beautiful game and the willingness to attack usually displayed have given way to a more austere system. But effective.

In the offseason, Villarreal also took advantage of the crisis of the Valencian neighbor to do some good deals on the transfer market, attracting players like the Spanish international Dani Parejo or the French Francis Coquelin at a lower cost. Good pick: Wednesday night, the first was the author of the free kick bringing the goal of Villarreal, the second was elected best player of the final. At the end of the match, the Frenchman could be enthusiastic: “Villarreal is a village of 50,000 people. And bringing a trophy back to the village is incredible ”. Effectively.

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