They Said It

They said it: Marc Wilmots

Belgium's national football team headcoach Marc Wilmots gestures during a press conference

Marc Wilmots has a knack of making a mark wherever he goes. Willy, as he is nicknamed, certainly did as much during a distinguished playing career in which he represented the likes of Standard Liege, Bordeaux, Schalke and the Belgian national team. He is now making his presence felt at the helm of the Diables Rouges: despite being just 45 years old, Wilmots can already point to having taken the country to the FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals in Brazil.

"Tough, but fair" is how this son of a farmer likes to be described, and Wilmots prides himself on never straying from his principles. Indeed, the former attacking midfielder is never shy about trying to get his views across, which is why the so-called Taureau de Dongelberg (Bull of Dongelberg) has been responsible for countless interesting quotes over the course of his career so far. has put together a selection of the best ones to date.

"My dad's farm was waiting for me. The hardest decision I ever had to make was to become a professional footballer. It wasn't something I'd dreamed of. My dad told me that not everyone gets such an opportunity, that I should give it a shot and that the farm would be there if it didn't work out."
On the life in store for him had he not been so gifted with the ball at his feet.

"I underwent 13 operations. If I hadn't been strong mentally, I never would have recovered. I was always able to make the most of the lows to climb even higher."
Resilience is one of Wilmots' trademarks.

"My dad is Flemish. He never spoke to me in Flemish, but he took me to Sint-Truiden, a Flemish club. And I'm the sort of person who believes that when you go somewhere, you should adapt. I didn't drink wine before I joined Bordeaux, but I adjust to the local culture, not the other way round. Was I supposed to say, 'Hey, people of Bordeaux, you should be eating chips'?"
Wilmots on his thirst for sampling new cultures, and the Belgian hunger for chips.

"I found out about my dismissal over the phone. That's not the way I operate. I didn't want to leave. When I start something, I'm not in the habit of giving up. I know I'll die one day but I want to do so staying true to my ideas, not someone else's."
Following his sacking at Sint-Truiden in 2005, which prematurely ended his second stint in the dugout, following a spell as interim coach at Schalke.

"The criticism goes in one ear and out the other."
Willy is nothing if not thick-skinned.

"A few years ago, when we stepped out on to the pitch, even if we were up against Brazil, Germany or Italy, we always played to win. We used to tell one another that whatever happened, the opposition would go home knowing what it felt like to be pushed to the very limit by those little Belgians. We're capable of doing what others do. It's first and foremost a matter of mentality."
In 2006, arguing that Belgium were lying down before games had even started – a frustration that may have prompted him to later take the reins as national-team coach.

"Individuals come to the fore when you have a strong collective unit, not the other way round. I've replaced 'me, me, me' with 'we'. And anyone who doesn't understand that can sit next to me on the bench."
His take on the adage 'There is no 'I' in team'

"When there are ten or 15 minutes to go and you're out on your feet, a burst of patriotism can give you the mental fortitude to hang in there. There were some players in my day who would have run through a brick wall for that shirt."
On the sense of pride at representing your country.

"Those gizmos really are a bane. They stop us from communicating. It ought to be possible to survive for 30 minutes without a phone three times a day."
*On the impact of smartphones on players' lives. *

"The national team is my second family. I'm the father figure in the group. The players can always come and talk to me if there's something bothering them, whether that's money or relationship problems."
*Wilmots' arm-around-the-shoulder approach extends beyond the training ground. *

"I noticed that at certain points during matches, he would take his foot off the pedal. He was content with producing just three or four flashes [of inspiration]. I've talked to him a lot, telling him: 'If you don't pull your socks up, if you let the team down, we're doomed, and you can watch the World Cup on TV. It's no skin off my nose: I've already been to four.'"
*On his efforts to get more out of Eden Hazard during qualifying for Brazil 2014. *

"Pressure? What pressure? Pressure is when a child is seriously ill in hospital."
*Wilmots is passionate about football, but always retains a healthy sense of perspective. *

"Will I allow the players' wives to be at the hotel during the World Cup? No! When you go to work, do you take your wife with you?"
When asked by a journalist why the squad's wives and partners were not staying at Belgium's team hotel in Brazil.

"Am I afraid of Fabio Capello? He's a renowned tactician and has coached some of the biggest clubs out there, but I've never seen a coach score a goal."
Ahead of the meeting with the Italian coach's Russia team.

"[Jurgen] Klinsmann never stopped smiling. We discussed things calmly, like two supporters. It was all amicable. We said that it had been fun, perhaps more so for me than for him."
Following Belgium's 2-1 victory over USA after extra time in the Round of 16 at Brazil 2014.

"We've set the bar very, very high and we want to go even further. The coach who has to follow on from this is going to have their work cut out. The problem is that it could very well be me!"
The verdict on Belgium's World Cup showing.

"I don't give a stuff about the criticism. We won four matches in a row at the World Cup, if that's not success [I don't know what is]. There is no question of changing approach. I'm a coach who's methodical, I'm happy winning 1-0."
*Taking aim at the critics. *

"People used to make fun of us. No one is laughing any more. But don't think I'm blind enough to believe that our team are really in the top five in the world. Some people expect us to win the [UEFA European Championship] title in 2016. I can't help wondering if they've gone mad."
Managing expectations.

"Come along, children. It's time to go back to nursery now."
*This quip at the end of a training session perfectly sums up Wilmots' good-natured, paternal rapport with his charges. *

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