Elegant Blanc might challenge Lyon

BORDEAUX - As the French championship searches desperately for a challenger to stop Lyon from wrapping up the title before Christmas, it is the league's newest coach who seems best equipped to do so.

BORDEAUX - As the French championship searches desperately for a challenger to stop Lyon from wrapping up the title before Christmas, it is the league's newest coach who seems best equipped to do so.

Paris St Germain and Marseille were expected to finally come good and make their financial muscle count this season but both have got off to woeful starts.

And high-flying minnows Nancy, the table-toppers, and Valenciennes, third, are expected to quickly start heading south.

So it is left to Bordeaux, and coach Laurent Blanc to carry the torch for the rest of France in the bid to dethrone six-in-a-row champions Lyon.

And after guiding his team to an efficient, if unspectacular, 2-0 win over PSG yesterday, the possibility of Blanc leading the "Girondins" to a first French title since 1999 is making people sit up and take notice.

Bordeaux are up to second, two places and two points ahead of the champions after nine matches.

An intelligent and elegant centre-half in his day, Blanc's CV includes stints at some of Europe's biggest clubs: Barcelona, Manchester United, Inter Milan and Marseille, as well as a World Cup winners medal with France and English and French titles.

And what he makes up for in his lack of coaching experience -- this is his first job - he hopes to be able to make up for with what he has gleaned from some of the best coaches in the game, such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Marcello Lippi.

"I learnt a lot, I was always interested in the way the coach worked, even from a young age," Blanc told AFP.

"So I always watched the coaches - I had the chance to work under some great ones and I've spoken to them on the phone, so I had an idea of what was waiting for me."

One of those that Blanc has been in touch with is Sir Alex Ferguson, well known for offering advice to his former charges such as Steve Bruce and Roy Keane, but it is an unknown that Blanc says taught him his most valuable lessons.

"I could quote a big name to you such as Ferguson or Lippi and it's true they taught me a lot but all my coaches taught me a lot.

"But the most important was the coach I had as a 14-year-old who taught me that football was a demanding sport and that if I wanted to succeed, I would have to consider it like a job and not like a hobby."

Blanc had a hard act to follow as he came in to replace Brazilian Ricardo, who guided Bordeaux to second place in his first season and the League Cup in his second, only to be released because of his defensive tactics.

Not a lot has changed in terms of style under Blanc, although he has got his team playing shorter passes and moving the ball quicker around the park.

He's also coming to terms with the responsibility of being in charge of a group, rather than just himself.

"That's the big difference between being a player and being a coach," he added. "When you're a player you concentrate on yourself, even in a team sport but the job of a coach is completely the reverse.

"You can never think about yourself, you have to always think about the group. In my last few years I wasn't just a player, I did some coaching too so it was easier to adapt." Despite his promising start, Blanc is not going to let anyone get carried away.

"The aims develop with the season, it's not worth stating your objectives at the beginning of the season," he said.

Sapa-AFP

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