He is in the middle of filming a documentary, directed by Christian Jeanpierre, on an epic of which he is one of the heroes, that of the “Invincibles”.
The story of Arsenal, champion of England in 2003-2004 without losing a match, with Arsène Wenger at the helm.
The former manager of the Gunners is therefore there to tell, share his English memories, his method.
But, after a lunch break with an Italian accent, the Alsatian, still active at 71, especially as director of world development at Fifa, departs from Arsenal to discuss another subject close to his heart. .
"2026, the day when football became American", the anticipatory novel by his friend Christian Jeanpierre, who looks at football "in five years" and for which he wrote the preface
("2026", 353 pages , 14.90 euros, from Solar Editions)
The opportunity to talk about the ball, the World Cup but also Kylian Mbappé or his real concerns about the risks to the health of the players ...
Why did you preface "2026", the novel by Christian Jeanpierre?
I support Christian, who is a friend, in his projects and his businesses.
I like the idea that he is interested in what is and will become of football, in its future.
is the year of a World Cup in the United States that will mark a break.
In 1982, the World Cup went from 16 to 24 countries, that was a lot.
In 1998, from 24 to 32, it was huge.
In 2026, there will be 48 countries, it's crazy.
Yes, it sounds crazy, but when we think in terms of percentage, we realize that it is reasonable.
There are 211 countries affiliated with Fifa and the World Cup is played by 48, or 25% of the members.
UEFA has 55 member countries and organizes its Euro at 24, or 45%… The national team is the only real motivation for a country to undertake something to change the structure of football in the country, to raise its level of play , develop football.
Isn't there still a risk of diluting the level of competition by going to 48?
This is one of the complaints that can indeed be made.
I think it really depends on how you organize your competition.
By starting with 16 pools of 3, for example, you quickly end up with knockout matches.
The overall level will be quickly raised.
2026 is also a World Cup in the United States ...
The United States will have a good team in 2026.
They will be there.
There are already, among young people, a dozen who play in the big clubs.
In the United States, football took a long time to take hold.
Today it is.
Certain sports are in distress among young people, baseball in particular, others are victims of health dangers, such as US football.
The girls, several times world champions, have contributed a lot to its development.
Like the Hispanic community, crazy about football, the presence of stars in MLS ...
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You mentioned the health dangers that threaten US football.
Are there any threats to football as well?
At Fifa, we are very vigilant about the head game (and the microtrauma it can cause).
We are in the dark about certain brain traumas
(Editor's note: a subject that worries a lot in England, especially since six 1966 world champions were stricken with dementia)
Today, I tell myself that having coached players for many years, I have done damage to training.
More than a match elsewhere.
When I think back to all the head game sessions put in place… It seems relevant today to take action.
We must gradually limit the time spent on the head game in training.
And ban it among young people.
In adults, I don't know… But we must be very, very vigilant to the consequences of the heads on the trauma, on the continuation ... We will have to think about clear rules on the supervision of the head game.
Do you think that if we ban the head game in training, the clubs will respect this rule?
Yes I am convinced of it.
Coaches are responsible people.
Players are also aware of the risks.
And, you know, in professional football they make a lot of money and want to enjoy it long after their careers are over.
They will therefore act in conscience.
What are the other dangers that you think are threatening football?
Doping and corruption… But also the number of matches played per year and the health risks associated with the situation, which requires reflection to rearrange the schedule.
Is it reasonable, when we must not be responsible, especially eco-responsible, to increase the number of trips for international breaks (in September, October, November and March)?
Is it in line with the evolution of society?
We have to reorganize all this, regroup the international dates.
One of the solutions is probably to organize the World Cup and the Euro (and the other continental championships) every two years and stop everything else.
Contrary to what some say, it will not harm the prestige of these competitions.
The Champions League is held every year and it's very prestigious.
People want to see games that matter, competitions that matter.
And where will Kylian Mbappé be in 2026?
Kylian will be on one of the roofs of the world.
At 27, he will be in full maturity.
On the ground, he will have refocused.
We “die” less when we are refocused.
While, on the sides, there comes an age when it becomes difficult ... At the center forward, we can play more overtime.
Especially with age, efficiency increases.
Which roof in the world will he be on?
On the roof of Paris, or on the roof of Madrid or… Will he have one or more Ballons d'Or?
Above all, Kylian shouldn't limit himself.
I said, several years ago, that there are similarities between Kylian and Pelé.
It is a good example to follow.
Pele has played four World Cups, he won 3. Kylian, at 22, has played one and already won one.
The France team, which was world champion with young executives and with the margin, has everything not to prevent itself from fighting to win the next one.
What do you think about his career so far?
It is excessive in its achievement but not excessively off the field.
She has no missteps.
It has exceptional maturity.
He is well guided, well surrounded.
The environment of the player is always very important in the success of a career.
We need stability, it has it.
We do not measure the chance, in France, to have Kylian Mbappé.
It is always the same thing, we only become aware of it at T + 1, with a delay.
This was the case with Platini, Zidane, Henry.
We find great athletes always taller when they are gone.
We are loved more when we are dead than when we are alive ...