how Didier Deschamps reinvented Antoine Griezmann

The press conference on December 2 will remain one of the highlights for followers of the French team. That day, a very relaxed Antoine Griezmann wanted to publicly congratulate Didier Deschamps. “I owe him a lot, declared the 2018 world champion. I give everything for the jersey, France, but also for him. Every match, every action, it’s like thank you that I send to him. I want to do everything to make him proud of his number 7.” Mission accomplished. The widely held view is that no player has ever been more valuable.

Unshakable confidence

We thought of the confidence Moussa Sissoko exuded ahead of Euro 2016. “Every coach has a style of player; I should no longer have a Deschamps profile”told us when we were nicknamed “coach’s son”. It now applies for Griezmann, 31, who will play this Sunday afternoon in his 74th consecutive game in Blue. A rare regularity when his career suffered from a low stage, succeeded thanks to the unshakable confidence of the coach. In mid-2022, the latter launched: “Antoine remains Antoine. » As he said, before the quarter-final against England, “Kylian will always remain Kylian”. Is the formula meant for the untouchables?

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When the Mâconnais were struggling in June, Deschamps admitted he wasn’t “not in top form”. But he kept it. “I can never imagine that he will lose his influence in the French team because he was not so effective last season with Barça”, reasoned DD, who visited him in Catalonia, got the news via SMS. Clearing his momentary doubts.

A tactical retreat

Griezmann’s performance did not immediately improve after returning to Atlético de Madrid in the summer of 2021. This season, his playing time was limited for two months under a contract clause linked to the return this. Again, his status with the Blues was not diminished. Deschamps looked for a solution for him rather than none. He succeeded when he knew the packages of Kanté and Pogba. A tactical retreat as a plan B? Enthusiastic agreement of the interested party, thinking of himself as a soldier of Deschamps. “I will go to war for him”, he confessed The team in September 2016.

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We look more at finishers in action, but in the shadows Griezmann holds the keys

“Players like Ziyech or Griezmann sacrifice for the team, said Alberto Zaccheroni, member of the FIFA analysis group. He is one of the reasons why France are the most dangerous in the box, with Giroud and Mbappé ahead of him. » The altruist puts others in the spotlight. “We look more at finishers in actions, but in the shadows Griezmann has the keys”admired Mikaël Silvestre, vice-world champion in 2006.

In a damaged environment, “he changed” and he proved to be “extraordinary”. Always important in the area, even with Hugo Lloris, defends with enthusiasm against Morocco. Griezmann, 42 goals in 116 selections, is no longer the player who in 2016 asked not to appear in the quarter folded against Iceland (5-2) to have a chance to finish the top scorer. What he is. For this Euro at home, Benzema is gone, Mbappé is not yet. And we quickly evoked a “Generation of Griezmann”this “ordinary hero, not too stylish, not too muscular, not too tall”, summed up sports marketing specialist Gilles Dumas.

As an offensive puzzle piece more than an isolated showman

Constantly relying on him, the tricolor staff never once questioned his position. First left, then right. In the middle of the game from the round of 16 of Euro 2016 against Ireland. As a playmaker in the fall of 2019, then in an attacking trio with Benzema and Mbappé at Euro 2021. Some options were less successful, but Griezmann rarely left the eleven. “He is mainly because he thinks faster than others”, judged former Uruguayan striker Diego Forlán, who compared him at this level to Rodrigo de Paul, will block his view this Sunday afternoon.

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Expect him, always. Taste it too. In September 2014, after the first World Cup in Brazil, Deschamps made it clear that he wanted him less as an isolated showman than as a piece of the offensive puzzle. Two years later, the coach pushed him to the bench after an inadequate first game against Romania. Ditto during the World Cup in Russia: DD replaced him after 70 minutes against Australia. Before passing the balm the next day, saying that his decision is “point”. To him, the reaction is almost always positive. Also because of Deschamps’ concern about the balance: JDD asked to say about Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé at the beginning of the year, the technician refused, and we suspect that behind this refusal is the desire not to isolate the other who has been twice on the Ballon d’Or podium (3rd in 2016 and 2018).

Loyalty and Gratitude

In Qatar, Griezmann was holding the musical speaker that permeated the locker room. Without being an ambianceur too “anger” than Presnel Kimpembe or Adil Rami in Russia. He is a leader in his own way. Among the oldest, Hugo Lloris was there before him; Olivier Giroud too, but the record goalscorer in the French team was sidelined for nine months after his altercation with Mbappé. Behind them, Griezmann is the third most capped.

That’s him [Deschamps] who called me first, and since then we never left each other

When Deschamps took over from Laurent Blanc in the summer of 2012, he watched Griezmann. He had seen it big. His debut was delayed when the FFF suspended him for a year for an unfortunate outing in a rally with Espoirs. Griezmann did not let go of the outstretched hand. “He was the first one to call me, and since then he hasn’t left us”, he remembered two weeks ago, with gratitude. between them, “It’s a very good relationship”. That illuminates the life of the Blues.

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