Didier Deschamps, much like players like Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids, and David Trezeguet, is someone who always brings back fond memories for me. He represents the late 90s, a time where Juventus dominated Serie A and Europe and during which I followed Juventus with adolescent fervor, growing to love the team which I now dedicate most of my time watching and writing about.
I don’t remember Deschamps’s return on the Juve bench with equal affection. Perhaps because of the circumstances surrounding it (Calciopoli… Serie B…) and also the way it ended, unceremoniously, with the coach deciding to submit his resignation after clashes with upper management (who then included “luminaries” such as Alessio Secco, Jean-Claude Blanc, and Giovanni Cobolli Gigli). With the complete disaster that became Juventus under these men it’s tough to blame Didier for his choice today, but at any rate Deschamps — who remains an iconic figure in Bianconeri lore and particularly as a player (a disciplined mediano with keen vision and tactical sense, as well as a special knack to utilize “tactical fouls” at the precise moment they were needed) — recently revealed he regrets leaving the Turin club.
In an interview to Italy’s Sky Sport 24 channel this week, the French national team coach discussed various topics, including Paul Pogba, Juve’s run in the UEFA Champions League, figures like Conte, Del Piero, and Zeman, as well as the current state of French football and that of Serie A. Here’s what he had to say.
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Didier, does Zeman inject some spice into the campionato?
“[The stories Zeman wants to discuss] is old news. It is time to have a minimum amount of respect for everyone. Zeman makes his way with Roma, it’s no use going back [on those topics].”
Del Piero to Sydney FC. Thoughts?
“He’s given so much to Juve, it’s his choice. [He picked] an experience beyond football, it’s a personal and family decision. I think that, at the time, he made the right choice.”
What do you make of Calcioscommesse?
“Nowadays there is this risk that you can bet on almost anything. Bets are now part of football and there’s a higher risk. Laws and regulations need to be more clearly defined and more rigid in order to limit this risk.”
How has Juve fared in the Champions League so far?
“It’s increasingly more difficult in Europe: Juve came out as winners from a tough Napoli game, but even Barcelona and Manchester struggled over the week-end. The challenge is tough domestically, but even more so in Europe.”
At the end of 2006-07, after reaching promotion to Serie A with Juventus, you said goodbye to the club.
“I made a mistake. Some time has passed now, but if I could go back I would definitely take a different decision. Would I coach them again? Why not, you never know.”
What do you think of Antonio Conte?
I don’t know him as a coach, but as a person I have spent much time with him. He’s a warrior, he likes to fight, he has this winning spirit and transmitted this mentality to players who didn’t have it. He’s done great things at Juventus. The undefeated streak of the club in the league is something extraordinary.”
Italy & France: two countries very close to your heart.
“Italy is part of my life, I am pleased to speak Italian again and I’m glad to go back to visit, for all that Italy has given me and in particular Juventus. The image that remains of the Italian team in France, in addition to the players, is the face of two guys like Pirlo and Buffon when they’re listening to the national anthem before the match. You can tell they’re proud to represent their country.”
How do you see Juventus today?
“They’ve found their place again. I think Juve needed to come back to the top both in the campionato and European level. I think that football needs Juve. The team has qualities that I think are superior to others, even though Napoli has made a good start, have quality, reinforced themselves with important players as well. The new Juventus stadium has a warm atmosphere, the team feels the fans are close to them.”
M’Baye NIANG and Paul POGBA: two French talents plying their trade in Serie A, and future Les Bleus members for you…
“Niang is young, he’s got qualities, but what happened with the U-21s is absurd. I don’t want to think about it. A commission will take the appropriate decisions and they will be important, but off the field this is a disaster. Pogba is still young, he isn’t even in the U-21 team yet, he just needs a little time. I’m following him. For him to make his way to the national team will take time, but at Juve he already is in a place where he can grow well.”
Yet, There aren’t many French players in Italy at the moment…
“In the 2000s, if a player had the option to play in Italy he wouldn’t need to think twice about it. Today, if one can choose between an English, Spanish or Italian team, he will rather go to England or to Spain. In France we don’t the same needs and expectations the English, Spanish, or Italian leagues have, where even drawing a match is a problem. We have many French players around Europe, but not in high-level teams.”
How would you compare Italy and France, in terms of their domestic championships?
“Italy, unlike France, are among the elite of European football.”