It was business as usual in France, despite the annual winter break.
The traditional French winter break gave everyone a chance to take bit of a breather from the action on the pitch, but of course that didn’t stop the world of football from shaking things up all the same.
The biggest movement of the period of peace and goodwill to all men was the acrimonious dismissal of Saint-Etienne boss Alain Perrin after a catastrophic first half of the season that left ‘Les Verts’ in a precarious 18th place in the 20-team league.
At least the dismissal was acrimonious from the side of club owners Bernard Caiazzo and Roland Romeyer, with the former claiming that Perrin perhaps didn’t have “the right motivation given all the compensation he’s received over the years.”
Perrin has been sacked from a number of high profile jobs, including that of manager of Lyon. Caiazzo reckoned that Perrin has banked somewhere in the region of €10 million and so “you might question his desire”.
Perrin himself claimed that he felt his sacking was “unjust”, but that he didn’t harbour any ill feelings towards the club. With 10 million in the bank, why would he? Perrin’s replacement, at least in the short term, is former assistant coach Christophe Galtier, though rumours abound that former Paris Saint Germain and Seville boss Luis Fernandez is front runner for the job long-term.
Someone perhaps a little lighter in the pocket now than Perrin, however, is Marseille defender Stephane Mbia. Thieves took advantage of the common knowledge that he was away on international duty with Cameroon, preparing in Kenya for the African Nations Cup in Angola, to rob his house, making off with jewellery, watches, a hi-fi and a home cinema, the latter presumably to give them a better view of the tournament!
Yet despite any security worries, it seems that certain exiled Frenchmen are keen on returning home. Wigan’s Olivier Kapo is rumoured to be close to a switch to unfashionable Boulogne, while Middlesbrough’s Didier Digard looks set for a return to France with Nice, while there’s also talk of Portsmouth’s Younes Kaboul signing for Lyon.
Supposedly heading out of the country, however, is Lyon’s Brazilian midfielder Ederson. Great things were expected of the player who arrived from Nice in 2008 as the supposed replacement for midfield kingpin Juninho, but the 24-year-old hasn’t made his mark at Gerland and could well be off to Lazio in Italy.
And what of Lyon, currently languishing in an unaccustomed sixth place in Ligue 1? Well, with a massive 13 points of daylight between themselves and leaders Bordeaux it’s hard to see the one-time kings of France regaining their crown any time soon. For the time being, though, coach Claude Puel appears to be safe in his job.
Unsurprisingly his name wasn’t mentioned by French Football Federation President Jean-Pierre Escalettes, who recently took it upon himself for some reason to cite Bordeaux’s Laurent Blanc and Marseille’s Didier Deschamps as the names in the frame to succeed Raymond Domenech as national team manager after this year’s World Cup.
This perceived indiscretion didn’t please a whole lot of folk, who suggested quite reasonably that this would unsettle both clubs. In French football, however, it seems that upsetting people is the last of anyone’s worries.