Soccer. Jocelyn Gourvennec: “I won’t stick my nose in something I can’t smell”
How have you lived this year without coaching, since your amicable breakup in Lille?
When I took a break, between 2019 and 2021, I wanted to do something else, such as training in Limoges over two years (general manager training at CDES). It was a choice, to also take a break, take a step back from my job and see things in a different way. I was then at Losc, for a rich season and I did not train this year, but it was suffered. I wanted to continue after Losc, but I was told 15 days before the recovery that it was over, so there was no longer a market. So I couldn’t resume at the start of the season, and I couldn’t, either, during the season, because what was offered to me didn’t suit me. There were some possibilities, in Ligue 1, Ligue 2 but also abroad. Things I gave up, including the French women’s team. I did lots of different things, I traveled to see a lot of matches, in France and abroad, I went to see the World Cup too. I was visiting Newcastle, at the invitation of Sven Botman, my former player in Lille. I did a few interventions in business on management too, I did a lot of sport again… It went by pretty quickly.
This disappointment experienced in Lille did not make you want to cut, for a time, with this football environment?
No, I wanted to resume, it just didn’t show up. I still have the same determination, the same desire and energy to work in this coaching role. I have sometimes been asked for a management position, but I feel too young for that. I still want to be in the field, guiding a group on the game project and on management in general.
For many, your Lille adventure comes down to failure. Did you experience it like that?
No way. What can we put in the word “failure”? Finishing tenth in Ligue 1, we are not in the nails, but no one had had such results at Losc on the international level before me. We won a Champions Trophy, against Paris, which had won all the previous ones and have won it since. We have had a historic career in the Champions League*… So if proving yourself and having results at the highest level in the Champions League is a failure, why not, we can imagine it like that. Personally, I think it’s a great performance, on the contrary. I showed that I could adapt in a particular context where it was more up to the coach to adapt to the existing situation, in particular to a squad that had just been champions.
This season has been full of ups and downs. But there was one consistency, your relationship with the supporters. What went wrong for them to retain only the negative?
I do not really know why. They were perhaps waiting for an international name to replace Christophe Galtier. There was a mistrust very early on, long before I started on the bench. That, I had no control over. Afterwards, with the staff, we worked, we won a Champions Trophy. The results in the Champions League have also smoothed things over, fortunately. Then there was a change at the end of the season because we lost the derbies against Lens. I also had a lot of messages of support and sympathy, including from ultras from Lille in particular. I’ve been in football for a long time and I know it’s fluctuating. In Bordeaux, everyone congratulated me at the end of the first year, when we finished European, and six months later I was no longer there. The lifespan of Ligue 1 coaches has fallen to twelve months this season. Nothing is built in eleven or twelve months.
You turned down several projects this year. What do you expect from the proposals that come forward?
It’s not complicated, when I’m asked, and whatever the level, I always respond favorably. I like to exchange, it is only by exchanging that we know what people have in mind. What seems fundamental to me is first of all to have a common vision with the leaders in relation to what we must put in place. If it sticks, we go a little further. Then there are the working conditions, with what staff, what workforce, what infrastructure, what ambitions, do we have the means for these ambitions… I do not want to train or rework for rework. It must also be in a stable, healthy environment.
How many clubs could match what you are looking for?
There are fewer and fewer of them, because there are more and more clubs going under the foreign flag. This is one of the problems today, in France and abroad. A club must stick to a territory. We see that Lorient is going under the American flag, there is nothing that connects the United States to FC Lorient. I don’t see Brest or Guingamp leaving under a foreign flag, because it doesn’t fit at all with the reality of the history of these clubs, any more than Lorient for that matter. Stade Rennais is well established thanks to a local shareholder. When a foreign shareholder comes to invest in France or abroad, it is not for the beauty of the city or the beauty of the landscape. It’s to make money. Those who will do the best with these shareholders are those who surround themselves best with competent people. Some break their teeth because they have not taken the measure of what a club represents in a territory. We respect the heritage, the supporters of the club. This is why I did not at all understand the posture of a certain number of people in the Lille public. Me, I arrived being very respectful of history and heritage. And I was criticized very quickly. Even before I started my first workout, which is pretty amazing.
What was missing in the project of the French women’s team, which you refused?
When I was asked, I was in Newcastle. It was just after the end of the Newcastle – Wolverhampton match. So I returned to France and met the committee made up of Laura Georges, Jean-Michel Aulas, Marc Keller and Aline Riera. I declined after three days of consideration. It’s not really the same job. The work was interesting, but I wanted to focus on the day-to-day club coaching side, because I didn’t go around the question.
In France, have you defined what might interest you? What do you think of Ligue 2 for example?
I’m not closing the door, there can be interesting projects with some means and ambition. What has always pushed me forward is having challenges. It is not because I train in the Champions League that I am happier than if I train in Ligue 2. I was very happy to be in Lille, but I was very happy in Ligue 2 at Guingamp also, a few years ago. It’s related to how I feel about things and how I feel about people.
And the foreigner?
It’s something I would like. I thought that the course in the Champions League, was going to open doors for me. There have been some, but it’s a little more complicated to integrate the market in England, Germany, Spain… The clubs work a lot with close guards and agents who have their entrances and you have to have this network -there. Sometimes it closes doors. I would be very very happy to discover a new championship abroad, but the opportunity must be concrete. I speak English fluently, I managed Bordeaux where we had 14 different nationalities in the locker room, in Lille, there were fifteen…
When you talk about the foreign market, are we also talking about the Gulf countries?
I have had fairly regular requests since last summer. I think that there, for once, the course in the Champions League did not go unnoticed! But hey, that would be a different choice.
It is not your will today?
I’m not closing the door to anything. I want to be happy in my coaching job. The economic aspect is also important, as for everyone, everyone in our businesses. But I want to have fun in my job, I won’t put my nose in something I can’t smell.
First in their Champions League group ahead of Salzburg, Seville and Wolfsburg. Eliminated in the round of 16 by Chelsea (2-0, 1-2), future winner.
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