Laurent Blanc – The Manager Of Bordeaux
Laurent Blanc had to wait four years before Football Club Bordeaux offered the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ and EURO 2000 winner his first stab at management. Although he excelled in defence as a player, as a coach Blanc loves to attack.
Laurent Blanc may only have been in charge of Bordeaux since last summer but he has already set his sights high as they push for a UEFA Champions League place. “In reality there are only two places up for grabs because Lyon are virtually certain to be up there,” said the 42-year-old at the start of the season and at the end of a long four-year wait for his first managerial position.
After hanging up his boots while at Football Club Manchester United in 2003, Blanc, who was lovingly dubbed Le President during a playing career that brought him world and European titles, took time out to decide on his next move. “I wanted to take it easy but I certainly didn’t want to lie around and do nothing,” recalled Blanc in late 2007.
Instead, he played golf (off a handicap of 14), took a keener interest in social issues and went back to school, or more accurately to the University of Limoges, for a professional football management course at the sports law and management faculty. As if that were not enough, he also took the badges that he would need to coach in the French top flight. Only then was he ready for his next challenge.
Marseille were the first club to approach him but Christoph Boucher, who was president at the time, eventually had second thoughts. “There is enormous pressure on any manager at the Stade Velodrome and we just didn’t want to throw him into the deep end. If we had, we would have sunk together,” said Bouchet by way of explanation.
Then, in the summer of 2004, pundits and fans were united in their belief that Blanc would be asked to take over from Jacques Santini after Les Bleus poor showing at EURO 2004 in Portugal, but instead, Aime Jacquet, the 1998 World Cup-winning coach who had by then moved “upstairs” to the post of technical director of the French football federation (FFF), pushed for a man who was already familiar with the internal workings of the FFF. That man was Raymond Domenech. Blanc was understandably bemused and bewildered by the decision, especially as he had been encouraged to apply for the post by then-FFF president Claude Simonet.
BLANC NOT ROUX
The next setback was just around the corner when Blanc lost out to Santini in 2005 in the race to replace Guy Roux as manager of Auxerre. Roux still finds that particular decision impossible to comprehend: “I crossed some names off that were on the list, but certainly not his!”
Blanc was also considered by Monaco and Saint-Etienne but both clubs eventually decided that his lack of experience should count against him. “It goes without saying that a good player doesn’t automatically make a good manager, but he should still get the opportunity to find out,” said a perplexed Blanc. “If all that matters is experience, then we may as well all give up now — unless you are willing to start in the third division. If I ever get the chance to manage, I hope that I would be the first to know whether I was the right man for the job.”
Blanc’s time finally came in the summer of 2007. TV channel M6, the owners of Bordeaux, were looking for a replacement for Ricardo, the coach who had fallen out of favour because of his sterile defensive tactics. From the very start it was made clear that Football Club Bordeaux needed a coach who would be able to work with the current squad and immediately command the players’ respect on the back of his reputation and achievements. The new man would also be expected to lead Bordeaux into battle and challenge Lyon, Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain at the very top of the league.
In the end it all boiled down to either Roux or Blanc, and for once the younger and “fresher” of the two candidates got the nod. Bordeaux decided against Roux, who eventually joined Lens and failed to hit the heights, and instead appointed Blanc, who had received a glowing recommendation from Jean-Pierre Bernes, the former Marseille general manager who is now a players’ agent. “As soon as Jean-Pierre mentioned Laurent, I thought ‘he’s the one’,” says Bordeaux president Jean Louis Triaud. “Nobody had thought about him, neither I nor the media. That was a stroke of good luck for us.”
Blanc had finally reached his goal. “As soon as I retired I knew that I wanted to go into management – but not at j ust any old club. I would only have been interested in five or six clubs, Bordeaux being one of them. Once you have played at the very top, you want to stay there,” explains the Frenchman.
NO WAITING AROUND
Blanc still needed time to find his feet as a manager, and after seeing his team slip to defeat in a pre-season friendly, he immediately approached Triaud and asked to sign five new players, but was soon talked out of it. “I pointed out that his demands would be manna from heaven for the press,” recalls Triaud. “Put it this way, I’d be surprised if a manager ever came to me and said that he had too many players!”
Since then, Blanc has got to grips with the reality of being a manager. Although he is an advocate of attacking football, he is honest enough to admit that “if we were to need one point from the last two games, I would be the same as anyone else in that position and just do what was necessary”.
And then he says something that speaks volumes: “If I had gone another year or two without a job, I would have forgotten about it. I wouldn’t have waited forever.”