France forward Kylian Mbappe has come out in support of Zinedine Zidane after the country’s football federation (FFF) president, Noel Le Graet, said he would not pick up the phone if the former midfielder called him to discuss coaching the national team.
The FFF had announced coach Didier Deschamps’s contract extension on Saturday after he led France to a second consecutive World Cup final, where they lost to Argentina on penalties in Qatar last month. Zidane had previously been a favourite to succeed Deschamps.
When asked whether Zidane, a World Cup winner with France in 1998 and a national icon, would now manage Brazil instead, Le Graet told RMC: “I don’t give a damn; he can go wherever he wants.
“I know very well that Zidane was always on the radar. He had a lot of supporters, some were waiting for Deschamps’ departure … But who can make serious reproaches to Deschamps? Nobody.
“He [Zidane] does what he wants, it’s none of my business. I’ve never met him; we’ve never considered parting with Didier. He can go where he wants, to a club … If Zidane tried to contact me? Certainly not, I wouldn’t even pick up the phone.”
Le Graet apologised for the comment on Monday after a growing backlash.
“I would like to present my personal apologies for these remarks which absolutely do not reflect my thoughts, nor my consideration for the player he was and the coach he has become,” Le Graet said in a statement reported by French newspaper L’Equipe.
“I admit that I made awkward remarks which created a misunderstanding. Zidane knows the immense esteem I have for him, like all French people.”
Zidane, 50, was the first coach to win the Champions League three times in a row when he was in charge of Real Madrid. He won Euro 2000 with France in a glittering career. He is without a job after he left his role with the Spanish club in 2021.
“Zidane is France, we don’t disrespect the legend like that,” Mbappe said on Twitter after Le Graet’s interview was aired.
Le Graet’s dismissal of Zidane as a potential successor to Deschamps comes two years after he had backed the former midfielder to take up the reins if he was available.
“These remarks show a lack of respect for one of the most admired figures by football fans around the world and our club is awaiting an immediate correction,” Madrid said.
“The statements by the president of the French Football Federation are inappropriate for someone holding such representation and are in themselves unsuitable.”
France’s minister for sports, Amelie Oudea-Castera, was one of many politicians who reacted to Le Graet’s comments, saying the president of the FFF had crossed a line.
“Yet more out-of-touch comments and on top of that a shameful lack of respect, which hurts us all, towards a legend of football and sport,” she wrote on Twitter.
French politician Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade also demanded an apology from Le Graet, saying on Twitter: “Zidane is a monument of French football and sport. A personality loved by all French people … Our football deserves better than that.”