After disputing "the game of my life" over a long period of months, Bruno Metsu finally succumbed to defeat during the night of 14 and 15 October. The French coach passed away following a lengthy battle with illness at the age of 59 in his home town of Coudekerque-Village, having enjoyed a number of notable successes both as a player and in management.
A midfielder during his playing days, he made his professional debut with Dunkerque in 1973, but it was at neighbouring club Valenciennes that he was introduced to the top flight. Alongside the likes of Didier Six and Roger Milla, he helped keep the northern outfit in the French elite, and from there he joined nearby side Lille before moving south to sign for Nice. He then took up the challenge with Roubaix in the second tier and finally hung up his boots at Beauvais in 1987. That was also the club where he began his vocation as a coach, and it was a role in which he would go on to flourish.
Metsu started off as a youth coach at Beauvais and first made a name for himself with impressive campaigns in the Gambardella Cup, a French youth tournament, in the late 1980s. That earned him his breakthrough appointment as head coach of his old club Lille in the first division, where he emerged as the widely respected man of honour he remained throughout his career. He continued adding to his prestige during spells with Valenciennes, Sedan and Valence, and his reputation clearly travelled far and wide as he took the reins of Guinea's international side in 2000, before becoming Senegal coach later in the same year.
"The team itself is always the priority because that's the most wonderful thing that exists in football," the ardent admirer of attractive play once told FIFA.com. "I remember goals from when I was a young coach where everyone got a touch of the ball. There was even one time when my striker scored with a chest control. We were playing so well that the other team were hardly there at all. You can't imagine how beautiful it is to see that from the bench."
It was in charge of Senegal that Metsu enjoyed his most memorable triumphs. Not only did he guide the Lions of Teranga to their first ever FIFA World Cup™ at Korea/Japan 2002, the man nicknamed Le Sorcier Blanc (the White Sorcerer) oversaw a superb victory against world and European champions France in their opening game. His side went on to qualify for the knockout phase too, ultimately falling 1-0 to Turkey after extra time in the quarter-finals. Senegal also reached the final of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in the same year, losing to Cameroon on penalties at the end of a goalless stalemate.
Memories of such outstanding campaigns were vivid for FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter today as he paid triubte to the former Senegal boss. He said: “I'm very moved by the death of Bruno Metsu. He was a remarkable coach who loved attractive football above all else, but he was also an erudite man whom I got to meet during several tournaments.
"Everybody remembers, in particular, the incredible spirit he instilled in the Senegal team in 2002, steering them to the Africa Cup of Nations final before leading his players to the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup, when the Lions of Teranga were appearing in the finals for the first time. I'm saddened that he has passed away, but I will long remember the man who said, ‘To get a taste of the World Cup is magical – you feel like you're on another planet’.”
Metsu did not have to wait long for his first silverware, however, winning consecutive league titles in the United Arab Emirates after taking over Al Ain in 2002. He steered the club to AFC Champions League glory in 2003 as well, and was soon sharing his passion for the game with players elsewhere in the Persian Gulf. His sense of adventure next took him to Al Gharrafa in Qatar and subsequently to Saudi Arabian club Al Ittihad, after which he coached the UAE from 2006 to 2008 and Qatar from 2008 to 2011.
From there, Metsu returned to Al Gharrafa, and he took up his last coaching role in the country where he won his first trophies, occupying the hot seat of UAE side Al Wasl. For his final job, he took over from Diego Maradona, one legend fittingly replacing another.