The president of the French Federation (FFF) is delighted with the return of Karim Benzema in Blue even if he would have liked it to intervene much earlier.
He will greet Didier Deschamps and his players on Sunday evening at Clairefontaine before flying to Hungary on Monday to support the French hopefuls team.
Before a month of June which promises to be intense, he agreed to sweep the news of French football.
What is your feeling for the Blues before this Euro 2021?
CHRISTMAS LE GRAËT.
I feel it well.
I find that we have a good team, united and complementary.
We are in a rather happy period.
Sometimes there were difficulties, and you had to raise your voice.
There, it is especially necessary to reassure the players in relation to their qualities.
We are in a difficult group (
Editor's note: Germany, Portugal, Hungary
) even if some tend to forget it, but we still have arguments to get out of the pool.
Is the goal still to reach the last four of the competition?
I will have dinner with the players on Sunday evening at Clairefontaine and I will repeat it to them.
When a team reaches the last four, it means that it has succeeded in its competition.
Afterwards, we know that the rest is due to nothing.
Remember 2016 and Gignac's shot in the Euro final.
Just a few centimeters away, we are European champions.
How did you receive the news of Karim Benzema's return to the selection?
I knew her a little before you (smile)… For a while, I felt that Didier, I wouldn't say was flinching, but in any case had forgotten this war of words.
And then he was sensitive to the fantastic season of Karim Benzema, and he wanted to make peace.
The timing is right.
Did you prompt this decision to bring Benzema back, or did you just accompany him?
Since the start of this affair, I have not changed my position on Benzema: I like him.
It was a story of men, it was complicated between them and we had to give time to time.
I have always wanted this return, and when I was talking to Didier, I was always constant on Benzema.
When did you feel that Didier Deschamps was changing his position?
Last year it wasn't even worth it.
But gradually I felt that things were getting better, and then one day Didier called me and said: "Here, I think I'm going to go see him".
I would have preferred it to have been done for a long time, but there he was quite decided.
Didier has been thinking of Benzema's return for six months.
Have you physically met Benzema?
No, I called him after his interview with Didier Deschamps.
And I'm going to see him on Sunday at Clairefontaine.
Was Didier Deschamps guided by considerations other than sporting?
Considering the season that Karim Benzema is doing, there is not even a need to discuss the quality of the player.
If it's just to make peace, it's no use.
He could have done it before.
This is not advertising, nor com, it is not the genre of Didier.
The France team won without Benzema, but sportingly he deserved his selection.
"I always wanted this return, and when I discussed with Didier, I was always constant on Benzema", notes Noël Le Graët about the Real Madrid striker.
AFP / Franck Fife
Have you discussed the bonuses with the players for this Euro?
There is no need to discuss the bonuses.
We remain on the system already in place during previous competitions.
The players share 30% of the total prize money paid by UEFA.
And then they do whatever they want with the sum.
France will play behind closed doors against Wales on June 2 in Nice.
But will you be able to welcome the public at the Stade de France against Bulgaria on June 8?
Yes there will be 5,000 spectators.
President Emmanuel Macron has confirmed this.
Why did you choose to preselect Mbappé for the Olympic Games when PSG is against this idea?
Because the player has not yet said no.
And neither does PSG either.
I will discuss again with Mbappé during the Euro, and then I will speak with Nasser Al-Khelaïfi and Leonardo (
Editor's note: president and sports director of PSG
But I think the player wants to be in Japan quite a bit.
What could change the situation?
I must feel that Mbappé wants.
It is gratifying to see that a youngster like him who plays a lot of competitions, thinks of the Olympics.
After if he tells me that he's done, and that he has too many matches in his legs ...
Would you advise Mbappé to stay at PSG?
Of course I want him to stay in France, and at PSG.
He is young, and PSG still have a lot of challenges to overcome.
It does not concern me directly, but players of this level, I prefer that they are with us.
My preference is very clear, and in my opinion, he even has an interest in staying.
Gignac at the Olympics, is it a good choice?
Gignac and Ripoll (
Editor's note: the coach of the France Olympic football team
) know each other well, because they were together in Lorient.
Honestly, I wouldn't have thought of him.
Sylvain had Gignac on the phone who told him he would be motivated.
So I think it's very good because he's a boy who fights and has good seasons in Mexico.
He can bring his will to the young.
Noël Le Graët, itinerary of a Breton who became the boss of French football
What goal do you set for the Hopes who play in the quarter-finals of the Euro next Monday against the Netherlands?
We haven't won this competition for a long time (
Editor's note: in 1988
), but for me we have one of the best teams in Europe.
I'm going to see them on Monday in Budapest, but if we reach the last four, that will mean that we have had a good championship.
It's the same for the Olympics.
France needs challenges and titles.
This is the first time that we have returned to the Olympics since 1996 and it is not to make up the figures.
Diani, the best female D1 player was positioned against a D1 with 10 clubs.
What is the FFF's position in this matter?
But no one has ever talked about a 10-club women's D1.
The only thing is that there are two descents and no ascents because of the white season in D2.
Then the DNCG will work, and we will find a formula.
My opinion is that we will continue to play at 12 clubs in D1.
The Federation's general assembly takes place on June 4th and I will confirm the 12 clubs.
How did you welcome the declaration of Jordan Bardella, the vice-president of the National Rally who explained that the Federation "gave in to a scum part of France" by choosing the rapper Youssoupha to interpret the hymn of the Blues?
First of all I want to clarify that this is not the anthem of the Blues.
This piece "Write my name in blue" does not appear on the Federation's website and we do not intend to ask people to repeat these words.
It was our “young” sales staff who had this idea to accompany the unveiling of the list of 26 Blues.
Personally, I discovered it.
Some like rap, others less.
Youssoupha is a good rapper who, like others, may have had inappropriate lyrics.
Do you seem to regret the publication of this song?
I believe we shouldn't have done that and let the list go out as usual, without disclosure.
But this song didn't deserve as many comments, it's politics.
Noël Le Graët still hopes to be able to count on Kylian Mbappé during the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer.
LP / Jean-Baptiste Quentin
What is your position in Ligue 1 with 18 clubs that the Professional Football League wants to set up?
For the L1 at 18 clubs, we will not take a position against the League (LFP).
Moreover, I had made an L1 at 18 clubs when I was president of the League (
Editor's note: between 1991 and 2000
) at the request of Aimé Jacquet to prepare for the 1998 World Cup. In the texts the LFP has the possibility of organizing his championship, and it seems that the majority vote is for an L1 with 18 clubs.
I think we will not escape it.
The future schedule with four more European matches which are difficult to squeeze is in my opinion the main argument.
But this will have an impact on Ligue 2 and the National, and the number of climbs and descents ...
The vote is due to take place on June 3 at the League.
But I have the impression that Ligue 2 is also going towards 18 clubs, even if for me this is not necessarily necessary.
The L2 can stay at 20 because it does not have enough games.
What future do you see for the National?
The ideal would eventually be to have a third professional division.
Mixing amateurs and professionals in the National will become complicated in the long term.
They are not the same organizations.
Can you assure the amateur world that the championships will be able to resume this summer?
I think so.
Football will start again very quickly and I hope that for the start of the school year we can be on the attack in all divisions.
Have you lost any licensees due to the Covid-19 crisis?
It is especially the 6 to 10 year old age group that has been affected.
We are also going to do everything to ensure that they return to the field.
This goes through communication campaigns, but also through aid to parents because children have become accustomed to staying at home with video games.
But I am not worried.
For example, for the registrations of clubs engaged in the Coupe de France (
Editor's note: 7,378 this season
), we will break records next season.
How much are the Federation's losses for the 2020-2021 season?
The Federation will be in deficit of 5 to 7 million euros for the first time since I have been at its head.
It is not considerable, but next year we had better see it come back.
Our sponsors are following us, but we need the ticketing revenue.
Seven matches for the French team without an audience is a lot.
The goal is to get back to balance otherwise it could become dramatic.
5 to 7 million euros is not nothing, but an additional year to this regime, we would rather have 20 or 30 million euros of losses.
Is this the reason for the Employment Protection Plan (PSE) which targets 26 people at the FFF?
Couldn't you avoid it?
It makes sense because professions are evolving and there are positions where it is doubling. We organized the Women's World Championship 2 years ago for which we had seconded a certain number of employees who were replaced. Not everyone got their job back. But we do things well and no one will be harmed. When we go to discuss severance pay with employees, there won't be a lot of criticism. The positions concerned were announced from Wednesday. And by the end of the week, everyone will know.