Coaches hail Spanish example
Laurent Blanc has said that he believes France need to change their criteria for producing young players and highlighted the successful model employed by world champions Spain, who place technical ability above physical attributes, as a good example to follow.
Just over a decade ago, France dominated the international game, winning the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ and the 2000 UEFA European Championship. However, it is now their neighbours Spain who hold those two titles, while the French are at a low ebb following a miserable FIFA World Cup campaign this summer.
Under previous coach Raymond Domenech, the French managed only one point and one goal from three games in Group A and were left in disarray when the squad refused to train two days before their final game against hosts South Africa. Blanc, who replaced Domenech following the tournament, is the man tasked with turning the national team around, but the former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Manchester United defender believes changes need to be made further down in the development process of young talent.
The way the criteria has been in France, Blanc suggested that diminutive Spain midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta might not have made their way through the system the same way as they did in their homeland due to their size. "(Spain's) is a good example to follow for all football nations, to have the same policies as them, and if everyone manages to have the same players as them then everyone would be happy. But don't forget Spain took a lot of time to win titles," Blanc said in Madrid, where he was attending a UEFA European coaches conference.
He added: "Everyone was unanimous at one time in saying the French youth development was a good one, and many countries used it as an example like Spain, Italy at one time, and Germany. But the choice of criteria is what is important. It is not the same in Spanish football as French football. Players like Xavi and Iniesta, in France they would have a hard time getting through.
"Selection criteria at one time (in France) was for big players whereas in Spain, it's the football that counts, the technical qualities. The criteria is not good enough in France - we need other ones."
Blanc points out it will not be something that can be changed overnight though, adding: "You need time. There are cycles and you have to be patient. The problem is all nations want to win. Now it's a Spanish one (cycle)."
Germany coach Joachim Low, whose side lost to Spain in the final of EURO 2008 and the semi-finals of this summer's FIFA World Cup, was also full of praise for the way football is played in the Iberian nation. "If you see the football here in Spain, if you see the league, they have got a lot of high quality teams," he said.
"For example Barcelona, I love the way (coach Pep) Guardiola and Barcelona play, they have very good technique, are very fast, and have a very offensive style. As a coach it's always very important to see a lot and to learn a lot and I've been in Spain and I learned a lot about education (of players).
"Because they have a philosophy in their clubs, especially Barcelona, who have had their philosophy for many years and they have very good players and are the best in the world at the moment."