Blanc to become next France coach

PARIS - Laurent Blanc will replace the controversial Raymond Domenech as France coach after the World Cup, the French Football Federation (FFF) said on Thursday.

A prominent member of France's 1998 World Cup-winning squad, although he was suspended for the final, Blanc will take over from Domenech after the June 11-July 11 World Cup in South Africa.

The 44-year-old took over as coach of Girondins Bordeaux three years ago, leading them to a Ligue 1 and League Cup double last season.

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The FFF "confirmed the choice of Laurent Blanc as national team coach after the 2010 World Cup", the ruling body said in a statement issued after a council meeting in Paris.

The Federation said it would make no further comment until Blanc officially signs his contract and did not specify when that would happen.

The last significant hurdle was cleared on Thursday when the FFF said they had reached an agreement with Girondins, meaning there should be a financial compensation for the club, Blanc having a year left in his contract.

Blanc told Bordeaux on Sunday he wanted to leave the club to take the France job. Girondins had reacted by saying they would expect financial compensation for letting him go.

Blanc, who also won the European Championship with France in 2000, played for several leading clubs including Barcelona, Olympique Marseille, Inter Milan and Manchester United.

"THE PRESIDENT"

An elegant sweeper in his playing days, he has been dubbed "the President" for his leadership skills since then.

Unlike Domenech, who has never won anything as coach, Blanc has put his hands on plenty of silverware and should be much more popular than his predecessor at first, although he is sometimes perceived as distant and cold, if not arrogant.

Blanc had been considered for the top job in 2004 but the FFF ruled he was not experienced enough and instead opted for Domenech, formerly the coach of France's Under-21 side.

The stubborn Domenech's six-year tenure started rather well, the coach convincing Zinedine Zidane, Lilian Thuram and Claude Makelele to come out of retirement and help the team qualify for the 2006 World Cup, in which they reached the final.

Domenech, however, has faced criticism ever since France's Euro 2008 flop, after which the FFF surprisingly left him in charge.

France, whose fans have been booing Domenech at every game lately, needed that infamous Thierry Henry handball to qualify for the World Cup through a playoff at the expense of Ireland.

The France players are currently at a training camp in the French Alps resort of Tignes, where they have been careful not to comment on Blanc's likely appointment.

All say they are focusing entirely on the World Cup, where the former world and European champions will try to heal their wounded pride and Domenech will have one last chance to win the fans' hearts.

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