French officials have played down the impact of coach Jacques Santini’s imminent departure to Tottenham.

Santini will stand down from his position at the end of EURO 2004 and he admitted that he made the decision after the French Football Federation (FFF) refused to extend his contract until after the competition.

“In professional sport every man is free to leave,” said Federation president Claude Simonet.

“Mr Santini has obviously forgotten the clause in his contract which said we would extend his contract to 2006 if we had a good Euro 2004.”

News of of Santini’s departure comes just 10 days before France’s opening EURO 2004 clash against England. However Federation vice-president Michel Platini said the players would not let the news affect their preparations.

“They’re professionals with big clubs. They know what they have to do,” he said.

Platini insisted France delayed the offer of a new contract to Santini in order to avoid a repeat of the situation they encountered with former coach Roger Lemerre.

Lemerre was offered a new deal before the 2002 World Cup finals, but following France’s dreadful performance in South Korea and Japan, the FFF felt compelled to fire the coach.

“After what happened with Lemerre we couldn’t afford to take another risk,” said Platini.

“But I wish Santini good luck.”