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Florian Lejeune (Rayo Vallecano): “Ready to earn less money to feel happier”

2024-02-25T22:32:22.811Z

Highlights: French defender Florian Lejeune is a key player for Rayo Vallecano. The 32-year-old has only played 70 professional matches in France. The central defender has only missed two minutes of play out of a possible 2,250 in La Liga this season. “I signed for four years, I’m only doing one,” he emphasizes. ‘I don’t think people know me too well in France,’ he presumes.


PORTRAIT – The French defender, starter at the Spanish club Rayo Vallecano, thinks he is experiencing the best period of his career at 32 years old. Far from difficult starts in Brest or big injuries in Newcastle.


He would almost be surprised that people were interested in him.

“In fact in France, I don’t think people know me too well

,” presumes Florian Lejeune.

Of his nearly 400 professional matches, he has only played 70 in France, the last of which on January 17, 2014. Child of Paris, teenager from Hérault (Béziers, Sète), the central defender, turned pro at Istres , today enjoys his life in Spain.

He has only missed two minutes of play out of a possible 2,250 in La Liga this season.

If he is a key player for Rayo Vallecano, a club from the city of Madrid, Lejeune has experienced the roller coaster that his CV suggests.

To discover

  • La Liga standings

  • La Liga schedule and results

“Florian Lejeune is in the crosshairs of Real Madrid

,” wrote the newspaper

L'Équipe

in 2011. The Istrian only had around fifteen Ligue 2 matches under his belt, and not yet 20 years old, when we were talking about him at Manchester United, Arsenal or Naples, and that he was compared to Laurent Blanc.

“A lot of things were circulating, some true, some false,”

dismisses Lejeune who, the following summer, played in the U20 World Cup with France, alongside Antoine Griezmann, Alexandre Lacazette and Kalidou Koulibaly.

It was in full preparation for the World Cup that he signed for Villarreal, freshly 4th in La Liga.

Willingness not to skip the steps.

Ultimately there was no chance (5 matches with the first team), and the yellow submarine sank with relegation in 2012.

The need to “take risks”

Lejeune leaves to get some fresh air in Brest, where he is loaned in January 2013. New disillusionment.

“A difficult moment in my career,

” he remembers.

I had played, I had been good despite the relegation.

The Brestois lost their last 11 L1 matches and finished bottom.

Lejeune's loan was extended, but

"the coach (Alex Dupont) did not have confidence in me, did not like my style of play. From Wednesday, I trained with the reserves"

.

Starving playing time and the need to

“start from scratch”

, to

“take risks... and it worked”

, smiles Lejeune.

The tall blond (1.90 m) bounces back in Girona, in Spanish D2.

Two years (2014-16) where he was essential in deep Catalonia, voted best defender in the championship after his first season.

The climb escapes Girona by a fraction, not Lejeune who goes to Eibar, in La Liga.

New success.

“I signed for four years, I’m only doing one

,” he emphasizes.

Newcastle, from dream to nightmare

Phone calls from the famous Spanish coach Rafael Benitez, then at Newcastle, convinced him.

The Magpies paid €10 million for the elegant defender, admired for his ease with the ball, his heading and his right-footed shot, which we will talk about again.

The first season in the Premier League was successful (24 matches).

The second is an ordeal.

Because at the end of July, Lejeune suffered a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Back in January 2019, he started for 3 months, before his left knee suffered the same and much-feared injury.

“Two crusaders in 8 months

,” he brandished with ironic pride.

And added, in a more serious tone:

“It was a complicated period.

I tried to put things into perspective, to tell myself that I still have many years ahead of me.”

Florian Lejeune with Newcastle in 2017, here in the duel with Alvaro Morata from Chelsea.

Shaun Brooks / Action Plus / Panoramic

He still asks himself questions with his wife, Laury, like him from the south of France.

“What if I hadn’t been able to continue playing football after these two injuries?”

Careers destroyed by failing knees, football has too many of them.

Without the injuries, Lejeune is convinced, he would still be at Newcastle, the only club where he stayed for more than two years.

“I would have liked to settle down a little more,”

he admits.

But you have to know how to adapt.

We're young, we can move, we adapt, it's just that mentally you have to be ready.

You shouldn't be afraid to take risks.

If you just wait and endure... It's a bit complicated to develop your career."

Lejeune silenced the skeptics at Rayo

So he leaves again, leaving behind the sadness that overcame him in England.

He agreed to

“earn less money”

to

“feel happier, while I had great economic and contractual security in Newcastle”

.

For him, football is a profession, but

“it’s above all a passion.

As long as I know I'm going to be on the bench at the weekend, that doesn't interest me.

I prefer to go to a more modest team.”

He relaunched with two seasons as a starter in La Liga at Alavés, in the Basque Country.

The team relegated in 2022, he went to Rayo Vallecano, first on loan, then bought for €2.5 million.

Expensive for a 32-year-old defender, many supporters judge.

“I was part of it and I must say that it silences me

,” bowed a Rayo fan on social networks last December.

“He is so underestimated

,” praised the Madrid daily

AS

.

Some aficionados had adopted it as early as October 2022, after his second direct free kick with the club.

He became the first to score twice in La Liga since a certain Lionel Messi.

His regularity does not deprive Rayo of turbulence: coach Francisco Rodriguez was fired on February 13.

Deputy Iñigo Pérez was promoted.

Eliminated from the Copa del Rey and 14th in the league, the players in the white jersey with a red stripe remain eight points ahead of the relegation zone.

“It’s a little more difficult at the moment, especially at home,”

notes Lejeune.

We have only had one victory since the start of the season at home

,” for 6 draws and 5 defeats.

The point snatched from the leader, Real Madrid a week ago (1-1) has healed some wounds.

The trip to the runner-up, Girona, this Monday (9 p.m.), promises to be at least as tough.

This is what drives the one who is thriving on this side of the Pyrenees, who has

“never really had any offers”

from French clubs.

Installed in a house in Madrid with his wife and two daughters, Lena (5 years old) and Lola (2 years old), he no longer sees himself living anywhere other than in Spain, a country which left him with good memories of his vacations. been younger, where

“life is good, people are more peaceful”

.

So many elements which allow him to evolve, according to him, at the best level of his career:

“I am reaching an age of maturity.

I have stability in football and in my private life.

It’s an overall thing that makes me feel good about myself, good about my life, and that’s felt on the pitch.”

At Rayo, they told him “gracias”.

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Source: lefigaro

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