Michel: Anything is possible
The Frenchman, however, insists that his loyalties now lie with South African club Mamelodi Sundowns, whom Michel joined after being sacked as the head coach of Morocco following a disappointing early exit from last year's CAF Africa Cup of Nations.
"Football is a tough business, today you are a hero and tomorrow people have forgotten about that," Michel told FIFA.com during an exclusive interview. "They ask questions, they talk, but that is football, one has to accept the responsibilities that come with the job."
Michel arrived to South Africa with a hugely impressive CV that included spells in charge of France, Cameroon, Tunisia and Morocco, all of whom he led to the FIFA World Cup. Most recently, he oversaw Côte d'Ivoire's debut campaign at the global showpiece in Germany, where the Elephants won plenty of admirers with their gutsy performances but ultimately failed to advance beyond the group stage.
This failure, according to Michel, remains his biggest regret in football. "That team had so much potential," he said. "I think we should have proceeded to the next round; we played well, we showed character. It hurt me when we couldn't proceed, we deserved better than that. We should have went on and once you get to the knockout stages anything is possible."
The well-travelled Michel makes no attempt to hide his affection for African sides, but he also stressed that the continent's teams must show more character in big tournaments if they are to become serious contenders. The potential, he argues, is there, but it is often underdeveloped. "There is so much talent in Africa, so much potential, but most of it is raw, it has never been developed," he explained. "No-one has taken his time in polishing these skills and turn these boys into men."
Since his arrival in South Africa, Michel has been a controversial and not altogether popular figure in the country. Much of that has been of his own doing, as on his first week on South African soil, he launched an open attack on the nation's players, describing them as average. In his defence, Michel points out that South Africa's FIFA ranking of 74 emphasises that the Bafana Bafana have not enjoyed too many good times of late. "Look where they are sitting at the moment, far outside the top 50 bracket," he said. "Its not a favourable position and it says much about the team, the progress made and the problems within South African football."
Surprisingly though, the former Zamalek coach has a flattering forecast of the country's prospects in both this year's FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Although he doesn't believe South Africa will win either tournament, Michel insists that the hosts will be tricky opponents and sounded a warning against underestimating them. He said: "No team wants to lose at home and the South African team will not be different. I have heard a lot of things about the side, and I think some teams might come here with a [negative] opinion. I wouldn't advise that because any team is dangerous on home soil."