Masculins / The coaches

Paul Le Guen

Publié le 26 mars 2004 à 15:16:49
The genuine article…

Endowed with a palmares of his own as a player (Coupe des Coupes in 96; finalist of the Coupe des Coupes in 97; Champion de France 94; Coupe de France 93-95 and 98; Coupe de la Ligue in 95 and 98), the Pencran (Finistere) native christens his coaching CV: "I apprehend this title somewhat differently" he comments, reflecting on it. "Because when you're a coach, you go through all possible states and it is necessary to moderate your remarks ".

The ex-player of Brest (83 to 89), Nantes (89 to 91) and PSG (91 to 98), who totals 478 professional matches, with 23 goals scored; 55 European games with 5 goals scored; and 17 national caps, hardly enjoys being reminded of his career. "The past, it is the past -and I prefer to look ahead", he professes serenely...

However, at the time of "PLG"'s appointment, twelve months (to a day) ago, many wondered about his abilities to manage such a high standard group, he who, after a vacant season, had just broken into coaching, at Rennes between 1998 and 2001.

With the Breton club, he had honourably carried out his first exercise (finishing 5th), before continuing with a 13th place and a 6th, during the last two seasons: "I get annoyed by people who claim that progressing from player to trainer is a delicate exercise. Look at Mathias Sammer in Dortmund. You simply need to have thought it out before hanging up your boots. "

Because, very small, he could already see himself "coach": Paul Le Guen is hardly

23 years old when he already considers this trade. "When I finished my military service”, he explains, “I devoted a good part of my summer to prepare the diploma. I was ready to exert this trade at 32. I had largely anticipated it and I have never regretted it since. It was a very well considered process. "

At the time of his appointment, Paul Le Guen has a master trump in its sleeve: Jean-Michel Aulas already wanted to hire him, as a player, in 1997. Rich of this considerable support -"the OL needs his youth, his dynamism and his credibility in its search of Europe" dixit Aulas-, the Breton keeps a stiff upper lip when the results are not up to the president's ambitions: "I hope to be respected because I am respectable" he claims, as if to mark his territory.

Jean Michel Aulas's main asset -Paul Le Guen surely is one of the keys to 2003's success: "The evening of a match, or the following day, I meet the President" he explains during the season. "And when the match didn't go too well, he encourages me to hold on. He doesn't chide me. He can see me working. He is the one to judge", he concludes.

The President returns the favour when during the break and despite some turbulence, he repeats: "Paul Le Guen possesses all the qualities to become the Arsene Wenger –Arsenal's manager- of the OL".

Anxious to protect his players, the ex-PSG skipper thus limits his public appearances and his briefings to the day before and the evening of the matches. The rest of the time, he will greet you politely but furtively.

"Distance is a force. It is necessary to have passion because it is natural. But, as I repeat, it is also necessary to know how to preserve distance." maintains PLG.

Especially with regards to the events: when Lyon elegantly disposes of Inter Milan in October, he remains sober: "It is an interesting match for the continuation."

Only once he loses his cool, when the team gets humiliated out of the Coupe de France by Libourne (in CFA, i.e. the 4th division): "Maybe the team is overrated", he lets out in the heat of the moment.

He won't say any more on the matter at the time: "I discussed it with the players, but this remains between us. The coach is passionate and he would like to see those working with him share this passion."

Composed and calm, Paul Le Guen has gradually imposed his views. And paradoxically, the heart of winter, which saw the OL lose one by one its objectives, truly enabled him to take the reins of the group. Thus, thanks to courageous choices, the Lyon eleven have discovered their balance and their champion rhythm. "Have I improved? I hope not, otherwise it would mean that I was not good before", he chuckles. And then returns to his main point: "Obviously, progressing is logical! You always learn." Which testifies to his personal pride of having achieved what no other coach has managed in France since 1992. His way of qualifying for the big boys' corner.

And he adds some: "If I remain in the collective memory as somebody expressing myself through clichés, that does not disturb me at all", says he who learned from one of his coaches "how to speak to say nothing". What a program! But he quickly adds: "But you know, football, it is such a question of balance that everything can slip by very quickly...."